K9 unit helps search for living and dead – The Irish Times

The K9 civil defense unit has been involved in hundreds of searches for people, living and dead, since 2006.

The unit had never had a fully trained female supervisor until Karen Kelly of Meath Civil Defense joined. She has transformed Rossi, her Springer Spaniel, from a conventional hunting dog into a victim recovery dog, or what was once known as a cadaver dog.

Getting to this point was a major commitment for Kelly and five-year-old Rossi, who completed a year-long program of around 150 hours of guided training at a National Association of Specialist Dog Users (NASDU) recognized organization.

“The dog probably gets two days off every other week,” says Kelly. “We train continuously, but as individuals and as a group and in exercises with civil defense.”

The use of cadaver dogs remains one of the most effective ways to find missing persons. They are specially trained to detect the scent of human remains using special chemicals that mimic the scent. A trained cadaver dog is 95 percent effective at picking up the scent of human remains, even if a corpse is buried underground.

There are now five dogs and five handlers in Civil Protection Unit K9. Four are involved in rescuing the victims, the fifth is an “air sniffer dog” used in the search for the living. In 2021 and last year, the An Garda Síochána unit assisted in 33 out of 250 missing person searches.

Meath Civil Defense Officer Shane Quinn said the demand for K9 Civil Defense units has never been greater “due to the increase in assignments/demand for recognition of our skills”. Members of the units took part in a training exercise at a civil defense facility in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Thursday.

Kelly works from home as a Web Sales Manager in her day job. Luckily it’s a family business and her hours are flexible and she can be available at short notice to help with the search. Your role in civil defense can be hard work and is done on a voluntary basis. It takes many hours, often in the dark or in lonely places, but someone has to do it.

“You have to remember that you could reunite a family,” she says. “From a handler’s perspective, it’s more about your training, your bond with the dog, and how prepared you are for the work.”

Rossi and other victim recovery dogs have learned to associate finding human remains with a treat like a cookie or a reward like a bouncy ball.

“Once they’re imprinted on a scent, the dog needs to be able to use its nose. It could be your slippers, your glasses, or your keys,” says Kelly. “You can train any dog ​​to do this job, but you need a dog that’s fit, capable, and energetic. It’s really about the ability of the dog. In Rossi’s case, he works for me to give him praise and affection. He’s a cheap date.”

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/2023/03/09/you-need-to-remind-yourself-that-you-could-be-reuniting-a-family-k9-unit-helping-to-find-living-and-dead/ K9 unit helps search for living and dead – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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