Search Dogs Australia are working in conjunction with the Western Australian Police as part of their Combat Agency as a valued resource in the search for lost or missing people.
Search Dogs Australia are a non-for-profit group of dedicated individuals who volunteer their time, energy, and resources to help carry out the following objectives:
- To generate a group of trained search workers and trained search dogs to aid agencies in their search for lost or missing persons.
- To supply these civilian workers and their dogs with necessary resources to enable them to provide optimum assistance to the tasking agency in their search efforts.
- To operate an organisation to coordinate and develop these service.
Our primary goal is to help save lives. We do this at no cost to requesting organisations or the communities we serve. Specially trained teams of dogs and handlers undergo rigorous annual certification testing and ongoing training in order to maintain their status as an active team ready to respond 24 hours a day.
Search Dogs may be used in a wide range of emergency situations, including Tracking/Trailing, Area Search, Building Search, Cadaver and Water Search. We have dogs that are cross trained in all the above disciplines. A brief summary of the way in which the dogs work in these areas is below.
To the purist there is a difference between these two skills however in deployment for missing person search they are essentially the same. For successful use of a tracking and trailing dog, a point last seen (PLS) is required and in addition to this a scent article is required.
- Point Last seen, the PLS, can be a specific place or a small area - examples include, a residence, car or confirmed sighting.
- Scent article, an uncontaminated scent article is crucial to tracking/trailing dogs as they use the scent to discriminate from all other scents.
To ensure the article is uncontaminated, SDA handlers prefer to collect articles themselves. If this is not practical, general forensic protocol should be followed. Scent can transfer from gloves and other items that have been handled by others. To allow the dog to eliminate the person collecting the article from the search it is requested they remain nearby until the dog has commenced searching.
Suitable scent articles can range from unwashed recently worn clothing to bedding and even a car seat.
Timing-wise tracking/trailing dogs can work on scent anything from minutes old to several weeks. Tracks have been successfully completed after 8 weeks. The cool of evening or light rain has shown to “refresh” scent. Very hot days are very hard for dogs and sometimes not suitable for dogs to work however as the cool of evening approaches the dogs can join the search with good effect.
Cadaver dogs are trained to specifically find the odour of decomposing human remains. Cadaver dogs are trained to ignore live human scent and animal scent, and only indicate on human remains.
A speciality subset of cadaver dogs is water cadaver dogs. Similar to cadaver dogs, these dogs have been trained to find the odour of decomposing human remains. However, water cadaver dogs have been specifically trained to find this odour beneath the surface of the water and to indicate the source of the odour to assist divers in a more directed and speedy recovery of a drowning victim.
SDA Dogs are trained to conduct Building Searches. The dogs are either off leash or on leash and are either given a scent Article to track or no article, to perform an off leash search. The dogs are trained to indicate when they have found the person in the building.
When there is no PLS or access to a scent article dogs can be used to search large areas of land. This can be done in one of two ways - with a scent article looking for the specific missing person or as a general search without a scent article looking for any person in the area. Area search is especially effective with a consistent breeze. Under good conditions the dogs can pick up a person at over 200 metres.
SDA have dogs trained in Tracking/Trailing, area search and some dogs are trained to be dual purpose. To ensure the best result please discuss the situation with the SDA duty officer who will then arrange the required response.
In either tracking or area search there is merit in deploying multiple dogs. In tracking/trailing search dogs can be deployed at intervals to verify the direction of travel of the missing person.