SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – The South Carolina Search and Rescue Association is helping to assist in the effort to find missing persons. 7NEWS went behind the scenes at how they train their dogs.
The training was held at the Bacolet River Heritage Reserve. The non-profit organization started in 2002. All coaches are volunteers and offer their services for free. Each dog has a special type of training that helps in missing persons cases.
“The way Penny works is she works with the scent, the smells that our bodies give off from decomposition. She smells the oil and different parts of the body have different smells,” said Mitch Henderson.
Penny and her handler, Mitch Henderson, search for human remains. One sniff as it stalled, with Henderson trailing behind.
“We might go to North Carolina, we might stay here in Spartanburg, or we might go to Greenville,” Henderson said. “Just where we need to.”
During training, Penny smells the earth, looks for human body odor and sits down to indicate that she has found what she is looking for.
The summer months are the prime time they are called upon for help, Henderson said, due to the loss of hikers.
“We should have law enforcement or emergency management to call us,” he said.
Benny can search for bones, blood, tissues, or even teeth.
“It can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to a few hours,” Henderson said.
While some South Carolina search and rescue dogs are trained to find the deceased, others are trained to search for the living.
SCSARDA are out in multiple environments, and they train their dogs several times a month. They have 3 types of search and rescue dogs: detecting and tracking human remains and searching the area. Iris, a German Shepherd, is one of their late breed dogs. This means that they keep their nose to the ground in an effort to find the scent of missing persons.
“There will be a flag, there will be an article about the smell there. First, she gets her SAR harness on, she ties her to her long leash, and then she has a check order,” Morgan Reid said.
From there, Iris’ handler, Reed, said she follows that path.
“Once it’s on a trail, depending on the age of the trail, it either goes straight down or hovers about 6 inches off the ground,” Reid said.
You sniff until you find the missing person.
K9 therapist Sarah Hay has a dog searching the area.
“They’ll be browsing the air for a scent cone from a missing person. So, they don’t necessarily follow the trail, they follow the scent cone,” Hay said.
Hay said Faramir starts tracking and then goes on to search the area.
“Our common people are older adults who may have cognitive disease, Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, or children,” she said.
The team serves as a tool for law enforcement.
“We’re like special teams that come in on a football team,” Hay said, “we’re only expensive in a few areas.” “If we are in an area where the subject is, our dogs will usually find it.”
The five trainers and their dogs are ready at any time to help find those who are missing.
“We are there at a very difficult time for the family,” Hay said.
“You never know when that will happen,” Reed said.
“That’s why we’re here to help and give back,” Henderson said.
The type of dog used depends on the needs of law enforcement.
If someone is interested in helping the team, they can donate their land to use for training, volunteer as a subject, make a donation, or become a member of the team.
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