Background On The Group and our Role
We are a volunteer group based in the Richmond area. We provide K-9 Search and Rescue services for the State of Virginia and the surrounding states on request. We are one of 6 state recognized K-9 search groups. We respond to missing person situations in wilderness, rural, and urban areas. These have included missing and runaway children, Alzheimer’s and nursing home walk-aways, flash floods, suicides, drowning and tornado/disaster. We are dispatched by The Virginia Department of Emergency Services and are on call 24 hours a day.
Our group trains “live find or air-scent dogs & cadaver often referred to as Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs. For “live” find air-scenting the goal is to teach the dog to find any human scent that is in the air. The dog will not discriminate or track a particular individual. No scent article is required. All dogs are required to be of a “working class” type of dog with enough stamina to work for an extended period of time. We do not specify a particular breed of dog. All dogs must pass standard tests for agility, behavior, obedience, and search skills. Search skills include trail, 40 acre night and 160 acre multiple victim timed field evaluations.
Cadaver (HRD) can be land or water based and is a “recovery” and or identification of those deceased. We attempt to bring closure to families.
All dog handlers, regardless of discipline must also complete the Virginia “Field Team Member” course which provides training in outdoor skills such as map and compass, wilderness survival, radio procedure, and search methods. Certification in first aid and CPR is also required. A criminal background check is required for all applicants.
Training sessions are held every weekend except holidays at several sites near Richmond. You are required to attend at least 50% of training sessions. Training for dog and handler will take from 18 months to 2 years to complete. When all requirements are complete the “Dog Team” is operational and may be used as a rescue resource by the State of Virginia.
When dispatched by the Virginia Department of Emergency Services on a search and given a state mission number you are considered an employee of the Virginia Department of Emergency Services and are covered under their workman’s compensation plan if you are injured. You receive no pay for search services you provide. Lost wages, travel expenses, lost or damaged equipment will not be reimbursed.
We do not charge a fee for training. Sometimes we implement yearly dues as a member of the group. This is used to cover expenses for telephone and pager use by the group. It also pays for new radio and pager equipment. You must supply all of your personal equipment and transportation. A list of essentials will be provided. You must complete a basic course in map and compass, radio procedure, and obtain your 10 essentials before your dog can attend trainings.
You are most welcome to attend training sessions to get a feel for K-9 Search and Rescue. Please do not bring your dog to the first training session that you attend. Do bring a photocopy of current shot records for your dog. Wear clothing that is suitable for the woods. A small backpack or fanny pack with plenty of water is recommended if you own one. You will be walking with a handler and their dog to get a feel for what is expected of you.