Search and Rescue Dogs

Sigge-Agneta-2When emergencies arise – from hikers disappearing into the wilderness to victims trapped beneath rubble – quite often law enforcement emergency officials call in the search and rescue dogs to find and rescue these people.  Although many breeds can help man in an emergency, our German Shepherds with their keen sense of smell, and tireless work ethic plus their being adept at walking over rough terrain such as earthquake rubble, together with their owners/handlers most often answer the call.

According to LASD a handler and dog search team specializes in one or more disciplines, which include Trailing, Area and Cadaver, and are deployed in both wilderness and urban settings.  Teams provide their services to law enforcement agencies and the California Office of Emergency Services without charge. 

Trailing Team:  Trailing dogs smell an article the missing person has worn or touched and then follows that scent which leads the handler to the missing person. These dogs general work on a 6’ to 32’ foot leash.

Area Team:  Area dogs work off leash and range out from the handler to search a designated area.  When the dogCaba-v-Herzensfreude-jpg-3 locates a person, it returns to the handler, does and alert, and then leads the handler back to the missing person.  An area dog team can search a large area quickly with a high likelihood of success.

Cadaver Teams:  A law enforcement agency calls in the cadaver dogs when they believe the person may be deceased.  These dogs work off leash and can locate a missing person’s remains above or belowground in the snow or under water.

Typically it takes up to two years to train a new team to meet the standards.  The handler must be fit and proficient in various SAR skills including man tracking, map and compass, land navigation, helicopter safety and search strategy.  All handlers are either EMTs or have had Red Cross Frist Responder training.  Dogs must pass agility tests, be helicopter certified, able to be hoisted in a sling, have the stamina and drive to search for hours on end and be social or friendly.

Although none of our club’s dog/handler teams have attained the SAR status, a friend of ours, handler Jodi Thomas has shared some photos taken of her teammate, German Shepherd, Caba v. Hersenfreunde, SAR, as together they worked and trained as members of LASD.

 Photos courtesy of Jodi Thomas, owner and trainer of Caba v. Herzensfreude, SAR/February 19, 2005 – February 17, 2015; Mel Ray; Lisa Kirk; Jeff Davidson; and Hans G., staff photographer for the Los Angeles Daily News; the LA Police K9 Association; LA Search Dogs (LASD); and Kathy Moacanin, Herzensfreude German Shepherds (Caba’s breeder).  

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