Dog/Handler teams specially trained to help public safety agencies in the event of a missing person

What is MinnSARDA
An autistic child leaves the house unseen, a hunter or hiker goes missing, a patient from memory care wanders away, a person suspected of committing suicide can't be found, investigators get a new tip on a cold case.  Established in 1981 as a 501(c)3 organization, MinnSARDA is the oldest canine search and rescue unit in the state of Minnesota.  We provide specially trained dog/handler teams to assist public safety agencies in lost person searches - such as those described above.  Our services are free of charge to requesting law enforcement agencies and are available 24/7/365.  We primarily serve the state of Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area, but have also worked in other states.  
How Are Teams Used?
Teams are trained to work in three main areas:  Trailing/Tracking - The dog follows the scent of a living person on the ground. The K9 works on-long line and harness towing the handler behind; Air Scent - Dogs use air currents to follow scent in to the missing person.  Typically, these dogs work off-leash and quarter an area much like a hunting dog;  and Human Remains Detection (Cadaver Dogs) - These K9s are trained to locate and alert to the scent of human remains.  
About the Dogs
Dogs can be pure breeds or mixed.  They must be able to withstand the weather extremes we experience here in the Midwest.  They must have good body confirmation and be mentally sound.  We most often start with puppies or young dogs since it takes about 1 1/2 to 2 years to get them trained and ready to attempt certification.  Typical retirement age is 8-10 years due to the physically demanding nature of this job.  Dogs must be friendly toward people of all ages, cultures, and physical disposition.  They must not be aggressive toward other dogs.  They must be confident and comfortable working in wilderness or urban settings. Dogs must learn scent work, advanced obedience skills, appropriate behavior in public and must be happy to look for a complete stranger.  They must LOVE the search game.  When they are not working, our dogs are beloved members of our families.
The Handlers
The dogs aren't the only ones who need to be knowledgeable.  Handlers must learn scent theory and dog training skills, navigation with map and compass, human and canine first aid, radio communication skills, lost person behavior, crime scene preservation and search strategy. We train all year round in all types of weather and terrain since we never know where or when someone will get lost. Like the dogs, handlers must be able to withstand Minnesota's weather extremes.  This includes ticks and rain in the spring, mosquitoes and poison ivy in the summer, burrs and mud in fall, and ice and freezing temperatures in the winter. We get dirty, stinky and wet.  Both team members must be physically able to hike long distances over a variety of terrain.  We put lots of miles on our boots!  This is not a job for everyone!  Especially since we are all unpaid volunteers.
Where You Come In
Though we are a small unit, expenses do add up.  As unpaid volunteers, each handler is financially responsible for all aspects of training, certifying and working actual searches.  Dogs and handlers spend hundreds of hours training together each year. We train as a unit most weekends year round.  Most members attend national or local seminars to hone their skills and learn new things.  Field eligible teams must re-certify with an outside evaluator annually. Handlers must be first aid/CPR and NASAR certified.  Dogs must pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Responding to a callout may require that we take time away from our paid jobs.  All of these things cost money.  Other expenses include: gas for training and searches, wear and tear on vehicles, equipment (such as gps units, radios, appropriate all weather clothing, and various K9 gear. It's amazing how many toys our dogs go through in a year's time since they are rewarded with their favorite item when they make a find!), and veterinary care for the dogs to make sure they stay in top physical condition.  We spend our time, money and efforts on all of these things because we believe that well trained dog/handler teams can be a valuable asset in a search for a missing loved one. If you believe that too, please consider supporting MinnSARDA with a tax deductible donation in any amount. 

© 2017 GiveMN | A registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.