Rescue dogs

Search and rescue dog training in Kelowna

From April 29 to May 1, 16 K9 search and rescue (SAR) teams from across British Columbia will be in Kelowna for training and validations with RCMP dog services.

Validations are an annual requirement for SAR K9 volunteers under the Emergency Management BC program and are the culmination of hundreds of hours of annual training. At the same time, another dozen teams will be being validated and trained on Vancouver Island.

Under EMBC, the government agency that oversees British Columbia’s 79 search and rescue groups, only the BC Search Dog Association and the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association are recognized as the province’s official training organizations for K9 search and rescue.

After approximately 2,000 hours of training, COSAR’s Search and Rescue K9 “Chase” was certified in 2021. In its first 12 months of service, it participated in 20 tasks and achieved multiple successes during that period.

“He definitely helped save lives,” said handler Terry Downs.

Chase traveled with the team for research on snowmobiles, helicopters and UTVs, Downs says. Search and Rescue K9s must be ready and able to travel in all conditions and to many remote areas to assist their teams in the field.

“A K9 team can cover an area faster and more safely than a conventional ground team and has a proven track record in locating lost elderly people, missing children and people in distress.”

All K9 SARs are under the direction and supervision of RCMP Police Dog Services and teams are coached in their training throughout the year. “We are incredibly fortunate in Kelowna and the Okanagan to have the support of local RCMP police dog handlers who are very supportive of using K9 SARs as an additional resource in the field,” says Downs.

K9 handlers spend over $10,000 a year training, traveling and equipping these working dogs and often travel across the province for training and to provide assistance to other SAR teams that don’t have a K9. Much of this cost is borne by the manager and his local SAR group.

“Chase is very popular with the team and the public,” says Downs. “We are grateful to all members of the public who made generous donations towards Chase’s expenses as well as some of the families of those whom Chase helped locate.”