Search and Rescue dog teams support other teams and the Police in their quest to find missing persons. Hamish MacInnes first mooted the belief that dogs might be used to find people missing in mountainous terrain in the early 1960s. Early trials and a formal training course held in Glencoe in December 1964 led to the establishment of the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) in July 1965.
Over the past 50 years, the organisation has gained significant credibility (particularly following the successful use of dog teams at the Lockerbie air crash in 1988) and has developed into a number of separate associations across the UK/RoI. The use of search dog teams has also diversified and today, teams are called on by the Police to search for people missing in urban and semi-urban settings, moorland, coast, forest and mountains. The use of dogs to search for drowned victims and people trapped under collapsed buildings, as well as the use of scent-specific trailing dogs are recent developments.
The National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA) is the representative body for all member associations with the exception of SARDA (Scotland) and the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association. Three members – NSARDA (Anglia), NSARDA (Kent) and NSARDA (Staffordshire) focus their work in lowland areas and are members of ALSAR.
The 12 associations are: