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 Saturday, 28 December, 2002, 15:23 GMT
Terriers recruited for hi-tech rescue role
David Jones of Global Rescue Services with his five terrier recruits
David Jones with five of the terrier pubs he will train
A rescue organisation is drafting in terriers to help in the life-or-death battle to find disaster victims in the shell of collapsed buildings.

It is believed to be the first time the dog breed has been used in the race to save people trapped by fallen masonry or brickwork after an earthquake or terrorist outrage.

This should advance the search technique for disasters 20 years

David Jones

The north Wales-based charity Global Rescue Service is to train six terrier pups for the task for going underground equipped with microchip monitoring equipment which will allow them to be tracked from the surface.

And the half of the new recruits - said to be the perfect size for delving through the spaces created when buildings fall down - are to start their professional life with New York's fire service.

Volunteers at Global Rescue Services have been involved world-wide in the rescue of disaster and earthquake victims.

But the highly-trained dogs they are used to are usually bigger breeds such as collies and Labradors.

The training venture the charity has begun is called The Terrarius Project, from the Latin for "earth dog."

It has already selected five candidate, picked from terrier families with a good history as working dogs and the instinct to "go to ground" to find its target.

Sniffer dog
In the nose: But not all dogs will work underground

Organiser David Jones, 51, said: "This should advance the search technique for disasters 20 years.

"I've had this idea for many years - the expertise with the dogs has been there but the technology hasn't.

"But it has advanced so much in the past two or three years, that I think it'll work."

The idea is to kit out the animals with equipment which can be tracked and monitored from the surface, allowing their handlers to know what the dogs have found and where.

The scheme is a joint project with the New York's Office of Fire Prevention and Control which wants to increase is ability to find people who may be trapped underground.

Mr Jones said: "There will still be a role for Labradors and retrievers as surface dogs.

It will save endless amounts of man-hours and machinery

David Evans

"The problem is with the voids that nobody can get into - you wouldn't get a German Shepherd or a collie in there because they are too big.

"The plan is that each dog will be chipped so we will know where they are within a collapsed building to within two feet."

He said new tracking equipment - combined with digitised blueprints of buildings - would allow the monitors on the surface to track the animals even through 50ft of concrete rubble.

If a terrier located a body or a survivor, a microphone would allow its handler to know what it had discovered.

"Instead of ripping a whole building apart to find there is nothing in it, we would know exactly what part of the building it was in.

Loud noises

"It will save endless amounts of man-hours and machinery."

The dogs' training is to start at the end of January and take about 18 months to complete.

Two will be trained as cadaver dogs - locators of bodies - one of which will be sent to New York.

The six terriers will be put through their paces in abandoned buildings on a mountainside at Penmaenmawr, north Wales, as well as in the many disused quarries in the area.

Their training will include being made used to noise such as banging and loud machinery in order to be able to work at disaster sites without being disturbed.

"It will be like a game for them," said Mr Jones.

See also:

09 May 02 | Science/Nature
18 Sep 02 | England
25 Feb 02 | England
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