NDWCC profile: Search and Recovery Dog Association

A clump of donated human hair hidden in a stack of wood for the dogs to search out. Photo by SLt M.X. Déry

A clump of donated human hair hidden in a stack of wood for the dogs to search out. Photo by SLt M.X. Déry

SLt M.X. Déry, MARPAC PA Office ~

For five years the non-profit Search and Recovery Dog Association of Victoria (SARDAV) has trained handlers and dogs to assist search organizations in finding human remains.

In the same way that specializations exist in Canadian Armed Forces trades, canines can be trained to search for different things; some dogs detect explosives or narcotics, others track living people, while others find human remains.

When it becomes unlikely that someone will be found alive, human remain detection dogs are a tool authorities can use to recovery bodies.

“I believe everyone should come home,” said head trainer Angela Lavergne, who works at Regional Cadet Support Unit Pacific by day, and volunteers at SARDAV on her off time.

At the start, training focusses on obedience and responding to verbal commands to prepare both dog and owner to move up the training ladder.

The association meets each Sunday at various locations on the lower island, with CFB Esquimalt’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) training site located in Work Point as one of the locations. The USAR site is ideal as it contains various types of terrain, from natural paths and wooded areas to industrial and urban disaster areas.

After basic obedience training, handlers learn search and recovery theory, and a dog’s ability to suss out remains is developed. Human remains are placed at the training site; human hair, teeth, blood and even placenta are sealed in a plastic bag and great care is taken not to contaminate the remains with other objects or scents as this could confuse the dog.

“If you walk straight to a location and drop the article, the dog will just follow your scent to the spot,” explains Richard Pattee, SARDAV President. “So, I walk all around the search area to prevent them tracking me.”

Handlers, with leash in hand and copious amounts of treats, begin the next phase of their dog’s search training.

“It takes approximately 18 months of weekly training to reach active status or being able to be on the deployable list for SARDAV,” said Lavergne. “We have over 20 dogs working on certification to deploy within B.C. now.”

SARDAV is one of many charities available for directed donations through the National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign. To get involved with the Association visit sardav.ca, or email sardavinfo@gmail.com.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.