K9 Unit

DukeThe Kent County Search and Rescue K9 Unit works with law enforcement in providing qualified, volunteer canine teams who assist in saving the lives of missing people as well as assist in bringing closure to families who have a missing loved one.

Like the rest of the Kent County SAR members, our handlers are volunteers who own their own dogs.  Being a K9 handler requires a tremendous commitment which can yield great results.

While Kent County focuses on trailing dogs (dogs that are presented with a scent article and the dog follows the trail to the person), we also have access to other disciplines including:  air scent (area search), human remains detection, and disaster.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who owns the dogs on your team?

The dogs are purchased and owned by the volunteer handlers.  They pay for all expenses such as food, vet bills, and equipment.

Who trains the dogs?   Don’t you purchase them already trained? 

The dogs are trained by our K9 unit.   We have experienced people who are qualified to train the handlers and dogs.   Although there are some places that can train dogs, this is not recommended as the handler and dog need to train together to become a solid team.

How long does it take to train a dog?

Actually both the handler and the dog as a team have a lot of training to do.  Realistically it will take 1 ½ to 2 years to become a mission ready team of handler and dog.

What are the steps to becoming a handler?  I already have a dog (or am getting one soon).

Although many people may think becoming a handler begins with getting a dog, there  is actually a lot of foundational work which needs to be done first.  Many people have not considered the larger realm of search and rescue and that is involved.    A member of the KCSAR K9 Unit is not just a handler, but is a member of KCSAR with K9 training added to the basic requirements.

The first couple of items deal with seeing the commitment search and rescue requires and the amount of work needed to become a mission ready dog team.   We suggest observing multiple K-9 trainings as well as attending a Kent County SAR Open House.  Both of these items will give a much clearer picture.

After attending those, then you can begin the application processes which requires a criminal background check, an interview, and hopefully, acceptance to the team.   After those are done, then a perspective member will be placed in a probationary status and assigned to a ground crew.  While on that crew, the member will need to work on the basic KCSAR training requirements.  The member can attend K9 trainings as a support person during this time.  After all probationary requirements are met, then the new member will be assigned to the K9 unit.

Once the person is assigned to the K9 unit and the K9 Administrator feels he has had enough foundational K9 support training, the dog can then be evaluated for acceptance into the program.

What sort of things does the handler have to learn?

First, a new handler has to meet all of the membership requirements for Kent County Search and Rescue.  Some of these items are:  Federal Emergency Management classes, ground search techniques, land navigation, radio communications, crime scene awareness, radio communications, as well as others.  For more information see this page: http://www.kentcountysar.org/misc/faq.

On top of the above items, the handler needs to learn K9 specific topics such as:  K9 first aid, scent theory, scent article collection, as well as obtaining experience on real searches and the skills required for the selected canine search discipline.

What sort of testing do you do?

Before a dog can enter our program, it must have an entry level evaluation.  After that there are three more trailing levels and a final mission ready test.   We also encourage our handlers to obtain external certifications as well.

I’m really interested in becoming a handler.  What do I need to do?

We recommend two things.  First, attend a Kent County SAR open house.  This will give you a lot of information about how to become involved with the team.  The second is to observe a few of our weekly trainings and interact with the team.  Becoming a handler involves a lot of time and money.    It can be frustrating and yet be very rewarding.  We want people to understand the commitment level before they proceed.

We do NOT recommend getting a dog before you begin these initial steps.

I already have a dog that does really good at finding hidden food and “Bobby” when he hides.  I think he’d be good for search and rescue.  Can I have him join your team?

This is a popular question.  We suggest you read the above question “I’m really interested in becoming a handler”.  There are many steps to becoming a handler and getting a dog into the training program.  It’s not just the dog that needs to have its training.  The handler will undergo an immense amount of training as well.

What types of dogs do you have on your team?

We have a variety of dogs which includes labs, bloodhounds, and mixed breed dogs.   We are not breed specific; however, we do require a dog that is appropriate for search work.

 My question is not here or I would like to learn more.  Where can I learn more?

If you would like to learn more, email Kim Karr, the K9 Unit Administrator, at kkarr@kentcountysar.org.