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About Search & Rescue Dogs


When someone is reported lost or overdue, volunteer search and rescue (SAR) dog teams are available to respond, day or night, to help in the search effort. SAR dogs can find:

  • Children lost in the wilderness, parks or hidden in shrubbery around houses, sparsely and densely populated areas near home or hiding in abandoned buildings

  • Elderly people who have wandered away from home or hospital

  • Hikers and hunters lost in the woods

  • Victims of drowning accidents

  • Victims of avalanches, earthquakes, floods, explosions, fires, train wrecks, plane crashes, tornadoes, collapsed buildings, and other disasters

  • Evidence of crime and the bodies of homicide victims

Volunteer SAR dog units search under the direction of law enforcement and emergency services agencies, at no cost to the agency. Units will not respond to requests by private individuals, and will not respond to known criminal searches that may present a threat to dog or handler.

Upon arrival at the search site, dog handlers work directly for their unit's operations leader, who reports to the search boss or incident commander of the local agency. After initial hasty searches of trails and paths, each dog/handler team is usually assigned a segment of the search area to cover systematically. Handlers work their dogs downwind of the section assigned to them or cover the area in a way that provides dogs with the best scenting coverage. Handlers map the area they have covered and report their POD (Probability of Detection) to the Operations Leader upon completing their assignments.

Search dogs can work in areas where other searchers have been, and they can work with other search resources, such as mantrackers. They can work day or night, in most kinds of weather, and are especially effective where human sight is most limited - in the dark, in dense woods or heavy brush, in debris (as found in earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes) and under water.



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