National Search and Rescue Dog Training Facility Opens in California

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A National Disaster Search Dog Foundation opens in Santa Paula, California, and will bring search dogs and handlers from all over the United States to train for real-life national disasters.

It seems like the news is simply covered with one natural disaster after another, and meeting the need for search and rescue dogs to aid in those disasters takes training of epic proportions.

Now, thanks to the vision search and rescue dog handler Wilma Melville had almost 20 years ago, a new national training center has opened on 125 acres in a rural area of California.

Related: Search and Rescue Dogs Saving Lives After Earthquake in Italy

The center will allow handlers and dogs to train with life-size disaster aids and props, such as earthquake and storm-damaged buildings. They will even have exposure to train wreckage and a collapsed freeway.

Melville told the crowd of volunteers, donors, staff members and dogs and trainers that their efforts are what made the center a reality. Her foundation has had the property for a while, and has used it to train her own search and rescue dogs. Opening the facility up to outside dogs wasn’t feasible until now, when a huge visitor center and lodge capable of accommodating more than 20 handlers was revealed last week. The site will now be able to be a national destination for canine disaster training and took more than $25 million dollars to bring to fruition.

Related: Search and Rescue Dog’s First Find Brings Little Boy Back To His Family

Melville said they will continue to raise money to add on and create more props, specifically citing a construction of something like a collapsed building from the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The Search Dog Foundation has already trained over 30 dogs and handlers, and those dogs had recently come back from efforts they gave in Texas and Florida. Others that were trained were currently on deployment to hard-hit Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Trainers at the opening said this national center was unlike any other in the world, and will make it so much better for training what they call ‘four-wheel drives on rubble.’

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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