The SDF, headquartered in Ojai, California, is the only organization in the country that works exclusively with rescued dogs and trains them to rescue people buried alive. Most of SDF’s 69 canine search teams are certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That is the highest achievement for search and rescue teams and means they can respond to any disaster.
SAR Dogs in Haiti: Update
Border Collie finds three girls buried alive in rubbleBy Lisa McCormick, January 2010, Updated June 2021
[Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, JoAnna Lou blogged about the amazing work of search-and-rescue dogs and handlers in Haiti. Today, Lisa Wade McCormick followed up with a story about how one dog rescued a few young earthquake victims in a story she wrote for ConsumerAffairs.com—a portion of which is reprinted here.]
Amid the sorrow and despair in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly earthquake in Haiti comes news of survival: One of the United States’ top canine disaster search-and-rescue teams on Friday found three girls trapped alive in the rubble of a four-story building.
A Border Collie named Hunter—specially-trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to locate people buried alive—discovered the young survivors under four feet of concrete and debris. The girls had been trapped nearly 70 hours—since the powerful earthquake devastated the tiny island country.
Hunter and his handler, Los Angles firefighter Bill Monahan, located the girls while searching a large bowl-shaped area near Haiti’s crumpled Presidential Palace. “After crisscrossing the area, Hunter pinpointed the survivors’ scent under four feet of broken concrete and did his ‘bark alert’ to let Bill know where the victims were,” the SDF said in statement. “Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, ‘thank you.’”
Monahan and Hunter are one of six SDF teams deployed with the California Task Force 2 to find victims buried in earthquake’s rubble.
The 72 members of the task force, who have 70,000 pounds of heavy machinery and other rescue equipment, are searching around the clock to find survivors of the cataclysmic earthquake that many fear will claim tens of thousands of lives.
“The teams are working in 12-hour shifts so they have time to rest and recuperate,” said Captain Jayd Swendseid of the California Task Force. “The team is putting in long and exhausting days. Roads are closed and there is a lot of debris that is making transportation difficult, but the team is managing to get to buildings and make rescues. Morale is good and supplies are sufficient so far.”
The six “live-scent” dogs on the teams are arguably the most valuable tools rescue workers have in a disaster of this magnitude. These elite canines can climb and run across the piles of concrete and other debris in the streets of Port-Au-Prince and determine within three minutes if there are survivors buried below, the SDF said.
Besides Monahan and Hunter, the other SDF canine teams working in Haiti with the California Task Force 2 are:
Weckbacher is the training group’s leader. He and Dawson have participated in other search-and-rescue operations, including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina.
Another SDF canine disaster search and rescue team is also on the ground in Haiti. Julie Padelford-Jansen with Miami’s Fire and Rescue Department--and her dog, Dakota--are working with Florida Task Force 1 in the rescue efforts. The SDF also has other canine teams on standby--ready to deploy to Haiti when needed.
“This moment is what SDF Search Teams train for--week in and week out--throughout their careers together,” said SDF founder, Wilma Melville. “When one SDF team succeeds, all of our teams succeed.
“Our thoughts are with our teams in Haiti, who continue to comb the rubble into the night,” she added. “Their perseverance, skill, and strength in the face of extreme challenges make us all proud, and give us hope.”