Former Rescue Dogs Black Lab Echo, Yellow Lab Marley, and Their Handlers Bring Life-Saving Search Skills to the State After Intensive Training at the Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center in California
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the addition of two new disaster search K-9 teams to strengthen the state’s urban search and rescue capabilities. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control Handler Brook Rowley and search dog Echo, and Handler Adam Leckonby and search dog Marley, join the State’s Urban Search and Rescue Team – New York Task Force 2, which includes members of state and local emergency response agencies.
“When people are trapped or lost in harsh conditions, every second counts,” Governor Cuomo said. “The intense training these dogs and their handlers receive help them protect communities across this great state by utilizing specialized skills that save lives and keep New Yorkers safe.”
New York Task Force 2 (NYTF-2) provides advanced rescue capabilities to disasters and emergencies involving collapsed buildings and structures, water rescue, rope rescue, trench rescue and confined space incidents. In life-threatening situations, disaster search K-9 teams provide an important life-saving search capability to rapidly locate survivors and improve the effectiveness of search and rescue operations.
The new handlers spent the past two weeks in intensive academy-style training at the Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center in California learning to master the basics of canine handling, as well as more advanced theories on scenting and search strategy. The teams completed their training on February 2. Prior to the two-week training program with their new handlers, K-9’s Echo and Marley had already completed ten to twelve months of training at the Foundation to prepare them for their new life-saving role. The Division’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control has partnered with the Search Dog Foundation to train New York’s disaster search K-9 teams since 2005.
The two new teams include K-9 Echo, a two-year-old Black Lab, and K-9 Marley, a four-year-old Yellow Dudley Lab, and their handlers. The teams bring the Division’s K-9 component up to four active teams, strengthening their search and rescue capabilities. The state’s newest disaster search teams join existing teams of K-9 Keila and her handler, Brian Girard, and K-9 Dax, and his handler Greg Gould. All four teams can respond to situations that arise anywhere in the state.
Echo was discovered in a shelter in Tennessee and was transferred to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands where staff realized he could prove helpful as a working dog. They contacted OFPC and a team conducted an evaluation on Echo. He passed with flying colors and was soon on his way to California for formal training with the Search Dog Foundation. When Echo was first evaluated his name was Lolo. That name would not work for the job he would be soon have. OFPC staff and the Miller Hill – Sand Lake Elementary School fifth grade class in Averill Park voted on a new name for Lolo and Echo was the overwhelming winner. Now Echo has a new name, a new job and a new partner.
Prior to arriving at the Foundation, Marley lived in Texas shelter where he faced possible euthanization. Fortunately, he was rescued by Ginger’s Pet Rescue and brought to Seattle, Washington. The Seattle shelter contacted the Foundation, who quickly realized Marley would make a great search dog.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger L. Parrino, Sr. said, “These new teams will strengthen our state’s search and rescue capabilities to find individuals who become lost, or trapped in rubble and debris following a disaster. Each team will continue their training in New York to sharpen their mission-readiness and prepare for future deployments.”
State Fire Administrator Skip Nerney said, “It is always remarkable how these rescued dogs can learn to become rescuers. Today’s announcement highlights our ongoing commitment to maintaining this vital capability, and we will support these new teams as they continue their training in New York and work toward certification.”
Search Dog Foundation Trainer Mandy Tisdale said, “Echo and Marley are incredible search dogs. Their desire in life is to hunt for live human scent. When they pinpoint the most concentrated source of scent, they give a bark alert and receive their most valuable reward, their fire hose tug toy. These two dogs have wonderful personalities and have been a pleasure to work with and train. They have been training side by side for months and it’s great to see them join NYTF-2. We are thrilled for Brook and Adam and are looking forward to watching and supporting Echo and Marley as they embark on their careers as search dogs.”
President and CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society Todd Cramer said, “Echo came to us because he was a dog with too much energy and drive. Our staff recognized these traits as positives for search and rescue work. Echo is a dog that was truly born to do the job he now has and we are not only thrilled that he will be working with local DHSES staff, but that he also has a loving home in which he is thriving and happy.”
Since their establishment in the state in 2005, disaster search K-9 teams have supported search and rescue operations in a variety of situations including the structural collapse of a parking garage in Johnson City, a house explosion in Schenectady, during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and Tropical Storm Lee, and the successful rescue of a lost child in Glenville. Most recently, NYTF-2 and its disaster search K-9 teams deployed to Florida to assist with rescue operations after the impact of Hurricane Irma. This was NYTF-2’s first out of state deployment. Thirty-five members of NYTF-2, including their canine teams, deployed to Florida prior to the impact of the storm and began rescue operations in the immediate aftermath of the storm’s passing. The team primarily operated in the Florida Keys, assisting the Key Largo Fire Department with search and rescue operations, conducting door to door checks looking for survivors and structural assessments of over 4,000 properties during a four-day span of their twelve-day deployment.
Founded in 1995, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Ojai, California. Their mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation offers professionally trained canines and an ongoing training program at no cost to fire departments. The Foundation ensures lifetime care for every dog in its program: once rescued, these dogs never need to be rescued again. There are currently 72 foundation-trained search teams located in California, Florida, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Thanks to Mutual Aid Agreements between counties, cities and states, these precious, life-saving resources can be shared regionally and nationally to make sure that when disaster strikes, no one is left behind.