Issue 15: January 10
Dear Dr. Schelling,

In following the devastating news stories from the earthquake in Haiti, I keep noticing sniffer dogs searching the rubble. Where are they from and how do they do their work?

- Julia

Dear Julia,

Our hearts go out to all of those who have been touched by the terrible disaster in Haiti. But as a dog lover, it’s truly heartwarming to see man’s best friend on the front lines, eager and ready to help.

Search (a.k.a. “sniffer”) dogs have streamed into Haiti from across the globe as part of dozens of elite search and rescue teams. This includes at least three teams from the United States working under the aegis of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Rescue dogs are trained to pick up the scent of a live human. When the scent is detected, they bark excitedly on the spot until their human counterparts can move in with high-tech listening devices, first aid supplies, and heavy-lifting equipment. Dogs bear a huge advantage over human searchers because of their agility, stamina, size, and exquisitely sensitive noses. A search dog is able to cover far more area than a human can. And they are trained to distinguish the smell of a living human (as opposed to a deceased human or other animal) from under as much as 4 feet of rubble. Read this link for more in-depth information about search dogs and their training.

One special organization located in southern California has deployed several search dogs to Haiti. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a non-profit organization that pairs professionally trained dogs with first responders in several localities across the United States. These exceptional canines are “rescue” dogs in every sense of the word, having in turn been rescued from shelters themselves. Follow this link for a story on how one exceptional NDSDF graduate saved lives in Haiti..

While the relief of human suffering in Haiti is the monumental priority, animal welfare organizations worldwide are now mobilizing teams to help animals caught in the disaster. The Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti, an ad-hoc international relief organization, now includes a growing list of major participants.

For more information, including ways to help, please visit the following links:

Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Best Friends
Humane Society of the United States
International Fund for Animal Welfare
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Humane Society International
American Veterinary Medical Foundation
National Search and Rescue Dog Foundation

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