Canine's Role in Urban Search & Rescue

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FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force members take a break in the shade with their rescue dogs after searching in neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

National US&R Response System Canine Search Teams (handler and canine) play a critical role during structural collapse incidents. The canines locate survivors, using their incredible sense of smell to detect live human scent, even from a survivor buried deep in rubble.

Canine and Handler Certification - Learn about the rigorous certification process each Canine Search Team must pass in the National US&R Response System.

Canine Search Specialist Certification Process - This document describes the National US&R Response System process that can also be used by Federal, state, and local organizations to determine Canine Search Team readiness levels.

Urban Search & Rescue Canine Photos - View photos of National US&R Response System Canine Search Teams responding to disasters.

Did You Know?

  • FEMA US&R canine handlers are comprised of civilians, firefighters, and police department members. Most of the certified canines are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers.
  • Canines with high "toy drive" are used for urban search and rescue. It is a game of "hide and seek" for the dog. In training, people run from the dog and hide with the toy, playing with the dog when found. By the time the dog is on a real search, he is looking willingly for trapped survivors.
  • Few search dogs wear "booties" when working on a rubble pile. Despite the hazards of sharp metal and broken glass, the dogs often need to perform what is called a "soft walk" where they splay their paws for maximum traction. Collars and booties can actually add to the canine's risk of injury when searching in tight or obstructed spaces.
Last Updated: 
02/18/2015 - 13:38
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