'Animal OBE' for US Secret Service Dog

04 October 2019

Hero hound Hurricane, who protected Barack Obama, has received the PDSA Order of Merit

A US Secret Service dog has been honoured today (Friday 4 October 2019) with a Medal for devotion to duty by the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA, for protecting the then President and First Family from an intruder who attempted to gain access to the White House.

Special Operations Canine, Hurricane, who worked with his handler Officer Marshall Mirarchi for four years, received the PDSA Order of Merit* – known as the animal equivalent of the OBE.

Hurricane was trained as part of the USSS Emergency Response Team and provided specialist protection to the White House and its grounds.

Now retired from service, Hurricane flew to the UK from Washington in style courtesy of British Airways**. He will receive his Medal from the PDSA at a special ceremony at the House of Lords.

He is the first international animal to receive the honour, which was instituted in 2014 and has been awarded to just 30 other recipients.

Commenting on the awards, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Hurricane and Marshall to the UK for today’s presentation.  Hurricane had a truly outstanding career with the US Secret Service, and went above and beyond the call of duty when an intruder tried to gain access to the White House. Despite suffering a ferocious assault he never faltered from his duty.

“Through our Animal Awards programme, PDSA seeks to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives. The PDSA Order of Merit was introduced to recognise animals for the exceptional devotion to duty.

“Hurricane’s achievements certainly fulfil this criteria and warrant the highest recognition. We are thrilled that he has become the latest recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.”


Hurricane’s story

US Secret Service Special Operations Canine, Hurricane, is famed within his Unit for his outstanding drive, determination and courage. He may be small in stature, but his power and tenacity know no bounds.

On 22 October 2014, these attributes were tested to the limits. Canine Handler Officer Marshall Mirarchi and Hurricane were on duty at the White House with the US Secret Service Emergency Response Team (ERT). Suddenly and unexpectedly, a man vaulted the White House fence and sprinted across the lawn, towards where President Obama and his family were residing.

The man’s intentions and state of mind were not known, but it is the job of the Secret Service to prevent any threat to the President.

The first attempt by a Secret Service canine team to stop the intruder was unsuccessful but fortunately Officer Mirarchi and Hurricane were stationed nearby and ready to offer their support. Seeing the first struggle, Mirarchi gave the command and Hurricane flew into action. He made contact with the suspect, intending to push him back to the perimeter fence.

 In the ensuing struggle, Hurricane was kicked, punched and swung through the air. Despite this violent, repeated assault, his jaws were locked onto the suspect’s arm and he never gave up. He continued to drive forward and finally grounded the intruder, enabling armed officers to take him into custody.

Though severely battered, Hurricane refused to be beaten and carried out his duties faultlessly.

Hurricane retired on health grounds in September 2016. Officer Mirarchi believes the ordeal on the White House lawn that night contributed to his physical issues.

Hurricane’s heroic actions that night thwarted a serious security breach. He stood between an aggressive intruder and the US President, who was at home with his family. Hurricane’s devotion to duty and service, while enduring a horrific personal attack, make him a worthy recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.


Award reaction

Marshall Mirarchi, Hurricane’s former USSS handler and adoptive dad, said: “Hurricane was such a legend within the Service. He loved working and his talent for the job impressed me every single day. That night, he stepped up and delivered under circumstances that no amount of training could prepare him for. I have never witnessed such violence toward a dog before but it didn’t stop him from doing his job.

“I am so proud of him and extremely thankful to PDSA for honouring his service and actions in this way. We are very pleased to be in London to receive the honour – Hurricane has travelled in style and is receiving the full VIP treatment, just as he deserves.”  

Thomas Sullivan, Chief of the Secret Service Uniformed Division, said: “The Secret Service Uniformed Division canine programme is, without a doubt, one of the best in the world, and Officer Mirarchi and Hurricane executed their mission flawlessly. The entire Secret Service is proud of Officer Mirarchi and Hurricane and all the men and women and canines that do that job every day.”  

New York Times best-selling author Maria Goodavage, who nominated Hurricane for a PDSA award, said: “I first met Hurricane and Marshall when I was researching my book, Secret Service Dogs. When I heard what happened that night and how impeccably Hurricane behaved, I was absolutely blown away. The skill and talent of these dog teams is second to none and I am completely thrilled to be here to see Hurricane honoured with the PDSA Order of Merit.”

Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer, said: “When we heard that Hurricane and his owner Marshall needed help getting to the UK to collect an award, we knew we had to step in. We were delighted to be able to fly them over in style and add a touch of magic to their special journey. We’ve never had a more photographed celebrity on board!”

The airline surprised Hurricane and his owner Marshall by pulling out all the stops making it a journey to remember as part of its BAMagic100 campaign. The airline ensured that Hurricane and Marshall were given full VIP treatment picking them up in a limousine from their house, surprising them with personalised check in desk and flying them both over in Club World (business class) to the ceremony.

PDSA Animal Awards Programme

Through these awards we recognise acts of extraordinary animal bravery or exceptional devotion to duty

Read stories of incredible animal bravery