Professionally trained "sniffer" search dogs from around the world have been recruited this week to aid rescue operations in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The effort appears to be unprecedented in scale, matching the devastation already documented in the Caribbean country.
(Ron Weckbacher of Thousand Oaks, California, with rescue dog Dawson. Weckbacher is one of many elite dog/handler teams traveling to Haiti. Credit: National Disaster Search Dog Foundation)
French teams with "sniffer dogs" were seen boarding vans yesterday, headed to the airport on their way to Haiti. The dogs are trained to serve, so many excitedly jumped forward on their leashes in apparent anticipation.
China dispatched a chartered plane containing multiple sniffer dogs and 10 tons of tents, food and medical equipment. A somber ceremony was held at the Beijing airport before the teams left, with handlers and their dogs lined up, equipment at the ready. The team from China arrived in Haiti today and is presently at work there.
An Itar Tass bulletin reports that a team from the Russian Ministry
for Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) left Moscow today, also bound for Haiti. The IL-76 plane contained 22 rescuers in total. Among the team were eight doctors, two psychologists and six canine specialists with search and rescue dogs. Another news report mentioned that the dogs—3 Labradors, 2 golden retrievers and a German shepherd—helped to ease the tension of those on board the plane, which had a stop off in Iceland. The dogs are traveling freely, without cages, but onlookers are discouraged from having contact with the on-duty dogs. An EMERCOM spokesperson said, “The dogs are to work heavily in stress conditions and
their state cannot be put in the slightest jeopardy."
Peruvian firefighters Gustavo Villavisencio, with sniffer dog Duncan, and Vanessa Diaz, with her trained dog Rory, were seen preparing to depart for Haiti yesterday.
The Mexican Navy has also brought in a team with rescue dogs, as well as food, equipment and other supplies for the earthquake victims.
A large team from Taiwan filed into a local airport, once again bound for Haiti. At least one rescue dog was seen accompanying their contingent.
Britain's international development minister, Douglas Alexander, reports that a 64-member team, including sniffer dogs, has left for Haiti from London's Gatwick Airport, according to The Straits Times.
Dozens of other countries, including Spain, Iceland, Canada, Germany, Venezuela and more, have pledged to send rescue teams, doctors, cash and supplies. Most are already on the scene at the Caribbean island.
The U.S. was among the first to help, with President Barack Obama saying that Americans continue to "stand ready to assist the people of Haiti." According to Rajiv Shah, and reported by Business Week, the United States has sent two 72-member search and rescue teams with dogs to help dig out survivors. Shah was designated by Obama to coordinate the U.S. relief effort.
American organizations that train search and rescue dogs have issued calls to action. For example, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation posted a deployment at 10 PM last night. Six dog-and-handler teams have been sent to Haiti. (If you visit the NDSDF website using the aforementioned link, you can watch a video showing the early stages of the deployment.)
NDSDF executive director Debra Tosch said, “Our hearts go out to our
neighbors in Haiti, and we’re honored to be able to help find survivors
of this terrible tragedy as part of CA-TF2 (the code name for the task force). This is the day that our
teams have trained for; when the unthinkable happens, SDF Teams stand
ready to respond, bringing hope and comfort to victims and their loved
Images and additional videos showing the NDSDF dogs at work on other missions are at the foundation's YouTube page.