Rescue Dogs Sent to Haiti from Around the World
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Sharon Seltzer on

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday, an unprecedented number of rescue dogs from around the globe are being deployed to help. The specially trained canines are being rushed to the area to sniff out survivors trapped in the rubble and locate Haitians who lost their lives.

For the present time, countries from around the world have put aside their differences and are pulling together to save the lives of the Haitians who live in the poorest nation in the Caribbean. They are sending medical aid, heavy equipment, food, water and search and rescue dogs.

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Rescue dogs are desperately needed during catastrophic events. Their special training and natural abilities help emergency workers find survivors quicker than any other method. Their sensitive hearing, sharp night vision and strong sense of smell have proven to cut down on the time it takes to locate injured and trapped victims.

The Teams

The British team was the first to arrive on the island early Thursday morning. Among the group of rescue workers were 71specialists and their dogs. They landed in the neighboring Dominican Republic and are expected to make their way into Port-au-Prince, later in the day.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown commented about the important role the dogs will have in the rescue mission, “The problem at the moment is that there are still many, many people who are trapped or buried under rubble, and we do not know the full scale of that catastrophe.”

The U.S. also responded quickly to help with the disaster after President Obama said that Americans, “stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.” A 72-member team with rescue dogs has been sent to the country. A story from the L.A. Times reported that the group will be “self-sufficient,” but will “coordinate with members of the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.”

Soon after the 7.0 earthquake hit, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation issued a nationwide plea for assistance from its membership. Their first group left at 10p.m. on Wednesday.

The organization’s director Debra Tosch said, “Our hearts go out to our neighbors in Haiti, and we’re honored to be able to help find survivors of this terrible tragedy as part of CA-TF2 (the code name for the task force). This is the day our teams have trained for; when the unthinkable happens, SDF Teams stand ready to respond, bringing hope and comfort to victims and their loved ones.”

Rescue dogs and their handlers from Fire Departments in Southern California, and Fairfax, Virginia are deploying on Thursday, while another group in Florida remains on- call.

Jason Vasquez and his dog Maverick, an 8-year-old German shepherd from the L.A. Fire Department were among those leaving on Thursday. Maverick is specially trained to find live humans – which is the main goal of the mission.

Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development said, “The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives.” Shah was appointed by President Obama to coordinate the U.S. relief efforts.

Many more canine search and rescue teams will continue to arrive over the next few days:

Dutch Search and Rescue took off from Eindhoven Airport with 60 dogs and their handlers.

A group from France boarded vans that were headed to the airport.

China sent a chartered plane with several sniffer dogs.

A plane left Moscow with 3 Labrador retrievers, 2 Golden retrievers and a German shepherd.

Dozens of other rescue dogs are en-route from Peru, Mexico and Taiwan.

And dogs from Spain, Iceland, Canada, Germany and Venezuela have been pledged to help.

The epicenter for the earthquake in Haiti was about 10 miles southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince. It left the city in ruins with buildings crumbled to the ground and 100,000 people feared dead. Two million people live in the heavily populated city and an estimated 45,000 U.S. citizens live in the country.

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