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When disaster strikes, Indiana's search and rescue dogs go into action


"The best kept secret in Indiana" is what Dick Bell, Search and Rescue Academy Manager for Indiana Public Safety Training Institute, calls his search and rescue dog training facility at Camp Atterbury.
Search and rescue dogs are used to help find missing people. Usually the dog handlers are volunteers, and they come from all over the nation to train at Atterbury. Search and rescue dogs have helped find people in natural and manmade disasters.
There are three different rubble piles, an agility course and plenty of woods to simulate conditions dogs and their handlers would encounter during a rescue.
The facility has about four classes a year, and other agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Association train there. Dog handlers also come on their time to train when they can.
Bell, who says he is fortunate because he is at the site and can train his dogs every day, often comes in on his days off to help people who come in from far away.
Currently there is no national set of standards for search and rescue dogs except for those set by FEMA which do not cover most dogs and handlers because they are volunteer and do not work directly for the agency.
Bell hopes to get legislation passed in Indiana that would create a set of standards to certify dogs for search and rescue. The legislation is scheduled to go committee in early summer; which is the first step of three before it goes before the state Legislature for vote by December.
If passed, Indiana would be the first state with such certification, and the Atterbury training facility would be instrumental in helping dogs and handlers meet these standards.

Source: The Republic, Columbus, Ind., June 9, 1998
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