Wilma Melville, founder of the Search Dog Foundation (SDF), perfected a new program for training Search and Rescue dogs. Up until 1995, all disaster search dogs certified in the United States received their training from civilian volunteers over the course of 3-5 years. The out of pocket cost for individuals was upwards of $15,000 for training equipment, travel, and veterinary care. Melville successfully implemented a program through donations and fundraising that offset the out of pocket costs to volunteers.
Years after Wilma Melville and her black lab Murphy took part in canine search team training, they successfully received their Advanced Disaster Search Dog certification. In April of 1995, Murphy and Melville were deployed to the terrorist-bombed Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At the time, they were one of only 15 Advanced Certified Disaster Search Teams in the US. Today, there are over 250 Advanced Certified Disaster Search Teams thanks in part to the SDF.
Through Melville’s program, the right dog is matched with the right handler. Then, both dog and handler are given professional Search and Rescue training. Firefighters are typically chosen as the handlers for each dog, as they are already trained as first responders to any disaster. The dogs are recruited from shelters and breed rescue groups, giving these wonderful animals a second chance. Donations and fundraisers provide the necessary funds to develop the skills of each team.
Since the tragedy of 9/11, SDF search teams have been called upon by state agencies across the country to serve as the first responders to numerous disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, mud slides, train derailments, and building collapses. Whether responding to a major national disaster, or one closer to home, SDF teams stand ready to serve.
The Search Dog Foundation is taking their goodwill even further by joining the Adopt A Highway® Program, giving them the opportunity to give back to their local community every day. Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation® is proud and honored that this unique and notable organization is taking part in our program, and would like to give thanks to such a monumental cause.
Their sign will be located along Route 126 in Ventura County, CA where our crews will be removing trash and debris from the interstate over the course of the next two years.
Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation® provides companies and organizations the opportunity to support the communities they live and work in through outdoor signage on America’s busiest highways. AHMC also partners with the Department of Transportation in obtaining all the permits, contracts, and anything else that is needed to get a sponsor’s sign up on the highway. All while, we are making sure that the roadways are maintained safely and consistently.
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