These boots weren’t made for walkies: Our new res­cue dogs

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LIA HAR­RIS

MEET the dogs of our war on ter­ror, armed with pro­tec­tive boots and a nose trained to sniff out sur­vivors trapped un­der­neath rub­ble fol­low­ing an ex­plo­sion.

Po­lice and fireys are work­ing to­gether on Ur­ban Search and Res­cue (USAR) train­ing for seven dogs, which will be ready for ac­tion come Septem­ber.

The dogs are train­ing at a spe­cial cen­tre at In­gle­burn, which has been built to sim­u­late an ex­plo­sion or earth­quake.

Po­lice dog Koda and han­dler Dun­can Aber­nethy are among the teams train­ing, which in­volves the bel­gian ma­li­nois don­ning spe­cially made pro­tec­tive shoes and sniff­ing out peo­ple trapped up to 1m be­low rub­ble.

Sergeant Aber­nethy said they were only us­ing smaller dogs be­cause big­ger dogs such as ger­man shep­herds were too un­steady on their feet to nav­i­gate the dif­fi­cult ter­rain.

“It’s very high im­pact and very dan­ger­ous for the dogs, so we’ve got to re­ally watch them,” he said.

Sgt Aber­nethy said Koda was be­ing trained to pick up the scent of a per­son in the air be­fore hon­ing in on the source and bark­ing to alert her han­dler she has found a sur­vivor. Res­cue crews will then bring in ad­vanced equip­ment to re­cover the per­son.

The In­gle­burn site fea­tures a pile of rub­ble with a se­ries of tun­nels un­der­neath to al­low peo­ple to hide while the dogs per­form mock searches dur­ing the train­ing.

Sgt Aber­nethy said the method could also be used for an in­ci­dent such as the 2014 build­ing ex­plo­sion at Rozelle, which killed three peo­ple. “Or a build­ing site where the walls have come down. Rather than hav­ing the fireys pulling it out brick by brick, they’ve now got a tool they can call on,” he said.

The dogs will also be on call for overseas dis­as­ters in se­lected coun­tries.

Sergeant Dun­can Aber­nethy and Koda. Po­lice dog Koda goes through her train­ing paces. Pic­tures: Sam Ruttyn

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