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Canine's Role in Urban Search & Rescue

This page outlines the role canine search teams perform as part of the overall Urban Search & Rescue teams.


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.

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: 
03/08/2016 - 08:27