Crisis in Japan: American Search Dogs Lend a Helping Paw

03/14/2011 at 05:00 PM EDT

Crisis in Japan: American Search Dogs Lend a Helping Paw
AP
They are the red and blue teams, six pairs of canine disaster search teams trained to find survivors in the rubble. Red and blue, called upon by the USAID and deployed to help with reconnaissance and primary searches in Japan.

The country is reeling after the effects of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which was followed immediately by a tsunami, major aftershocks, and the destruction of nuclear plants. To do what they can during the crisis, the American search teams are standing by and will soon begin looking for live victims in Ofunato City in the northeast coast of Japan.

Five out of six dogs were rescued from shelters by the Search Dog Foundation, and their handlers, all firefighters from California, have been trained with their dogs to work in situations like this. The dogs, including Pearl, the black Lab who was awarded ASPCA's Dog of the Year title in 2010, will work off-leash.

"The handler just sends them into a pile, and these dogs know to find a living person they cannot see," says Janet Reineck of the Search Dog Foundation. "The dogs think the person they find will tug on a toy with them."

Once a live victim is found, the dogs send out a bark alert, which lets the rest of the team know that someone is in need of rescue. To keep up to date on the search teams and their efforts, follow Search Dog Foundation's website.

Read more about rescue efforts on PEOPLEPets.com:
Help on the Way to Animals in Haiti Thanks to New Coalition
In a Disaster Zone, Cassius is Top Dog

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