The Citizen (KZN)

Pet dogs to the rescue

PHILIPPINE­S: PLAN TO DEPLOY ANIMALS IN THE AFTERMATH OF A DISASTER

- Manila

Manila vulnerable to quakes due to its location on the West Valley Fault.

With her owner holding her leash, Philippine pooch Hazel sniffs through rubble in a simulated search for survivors of a major earthquake in the capital Manila.

Hazel is taking part in a programme training pet dogs and their owners in search and rescue so they can be deployed in the aftermath of a disaster.

Every Sunday, about 46 mongrels and purebreds of all sizes are taken by volunteer trainers at a facility in suburban Manila where they learn to find people, scale ladders and bound over wooden structures.

Philippine disaster agencies already have search and rescue dogs that are deployed when disasters strike the archipelag­o nation.

But there are concerns that there might not be enough of them if a major earthquake were to hit the sprawling metropolis of Manila.

Hazel, who was a skinny street mutt before she was adopted by her owner, Nathalia Chua, lacks the pedigree of some of her classmates.

But she shows plenty of enthusiasm as she follows instructio­ns to search rubble, overturned water drums and small wooden huts.

The three-year-old barks and wags her tail when she finds a person hiding in a drum, drawing cheers from trainers and back rubs from Chua.

“My end goal with Hazel is just to be as prepared as possible if the big one comes,” said Chua, referring to a major earthquake seismologi­sts predict could strike the city one day.

Manila is vulnerable to quakes due to its location on the West Valley Fault and its proximity to the Manila Trench off the main island of Luzon.

Seismologi­sts believe the movement of either one could trigger a major earthquake in the city of more than 13 million people that could kill tens of thousands.

The MMDA K-9 Corps volunteer group has trained about 700 pet dogs since it began the programme in 2016.

It aims to train at least 3 400 pet dogs in search and rescue across the city.

“We all know that for the big one... we really need to be prepared,” said trainer Katrina Florece at the training facility owned by the government’s Metropolit­an Manila Developmen­t Authority.

Hazel was malnourish­ed and fearful when Chua found her in 2021 during a family holiday on the western island of Palawan.

The search and rescue training has helped her become calmer and more confident.

“She loves it,” Chua said. “I think even if the dog doesn’t end up enjoying search and rescue, joining this is a great opportunit­y to learn and bond with your dog.”

Dogs have to complete at least 12 training sessions before they can be deployed in real-life disaster response operations.

American chef Jon Hrinyak, 40, regularly brings his German shepherd Oly to the training in the hope that they might be able to save someone’s life one day.

“You hope that when something happens... we can be there to assist someone,” Hrinyak said.

“A single life that we can help is worth it.”

 ?? Picture: AFP ?? HELPFUL HOUNDS. Nathalia Chua guides her dog Hazel during a search and rescue programme in Taguig, Manila, recently. Every Sunday, about 46 dogs are put through their paces by volunteer trainers at a facility in Manila, where they learn to find survivors, scale ladders and bound over wooden structures.
Picture: AFP HELPFUL HOUNDS. Nathalia Chua guides her dog Hazel during a search and rescue programme in Taguig, Manila, recently. Every Sunday, about 46 dogs are put through their paces by volunteer trainers at a facility in Manila, where they learn to find survivors, scale ladders and bound over wooden structures.

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