In the aftermath of an earthquake, mudslide, or building collapse, every minute is precious in the race to find survivors. And no technology can match the speed and accuracy of a canine trained to find people buried alive beneath the wreckage.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) recruits homeless dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups throughout the Western States, partners them with firefighters, and provides intensive, expert training. There are currently sixty SDF Canine-Disaster Search Teams in the United States, with 18 teams in service to the Bay Area.
It doesn’t just take a “special” canine to be a Disaster Search Dog. It takes an extraordinary one! SDF searches far and wide for Labs and Golden Retrievers with the extreme drive, focus, and athleticism needed for this line of work. In many cases the dogs are saved from euthanasia, as their over-the-top energy makes it hard for shelters to find homes for them. All these dogs want is a job, and, if they have the qualities we’re looking for, we give these dogs their “dream job,” and the chance for a wonderful life with the family of their firefighter-partner.
Scouring shelters and breed rescue groups for these high energy canines is a daunting task! Out of 190 canines tested by SDF in 2007, only 22 had what it takes to complete training. A grant from Jeff Pepper (an American Kennel Club Judge and SDF Sponsor and Guardian), has enabled SDF to create the SDF Bark Force to address this challenge.
In 2008 our 42 Bark Force members have assisted in locating 53 Search Dog candidates at 11 shelters or rescue groups, and are responsible for almost all of the dogs currently in training.
Join the Bark Force
Our greatest need for Bark Force members is in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re looking for some very special volunteers who love dogs and have experience (and enjoy!) handling large, unruly, super-high-energy dogs. Bark Force members travel to shelters and rescue groups to seek out and test canine candidates and transport candidates to and from our training facilities.
People who love dogs but don’t have the time or ability to test and transport them are helping out with other aspects of recruitment:
- Surfing the Internet for search dog candidates on breed rescue websites;
- Visiting shelters and alerting SDF about potential candidates; and
- Responding to phone and email inquiries.
If you love dogs and want to help rescued dogs become rescuers, please contact me at 888-459-4376 x114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With no government funding, SDF relies on contributions from individuals and foundations across the nation to provide this service to our community. To see our “Canine Testing Video,” and to find out more about our recruitment and training program, visit www.SearchDogFoundation.org.
Karen Klingberg is Canine Manager for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.