Rescuing Dogs, Rescuing People
THE NATIONAL DISASTER SEARCH DOG FOUNDATION
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation was founded in 1996 by Wilma Melville after she and her dog, named Murphy, went with FEMA to rescue victims from the rubble of the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing. Afterwards, Melville decided there were too few FEMA-certified rescue teams and set to devise a way to train rescue dogs more, train them faster, and do it with less cost. That is how the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation began.
The foundation uses dogs rescued from abuse or abandonment and gives them a job to do. The dogs must pass screening and testing criteria before they are selected, and they are then professionally trained for six months to be rescue dogs. After all this, the dog is then paired with a handler.
All of the trained rescue dogs from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation are paired with a firefighter or other first responders, boosting the capability of the team to help victims of disasters. The dogs are also paired with firefighters at no cost to the fire station.
The foundation is based in Ojai, California, but there are now 72 SDF-trained search teams throughout California, Florida, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. The SDF disaster teams have helped in the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and more recently, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami as well as many other disasters and emergencies. Also, 85 percent of the dogs trained to be search dogs became certified, up from 15 percent before SDF introduced its program.
For those dogs that went through the training but did not become certified, there is the Lifetime Care Program. Through this, a new home is found for the dog, which becomes either a family pet or a working dog.
SMART WOMAN CONTACT:
Wilma Melville, National Disaster Search Dog Foundation