Search-And-Rescue Dogs Come To Tulsa To Train For Disasters

Sunday, March 19th 2017, 8:20 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Handlers from nine states brought their dogs to Tulsa this weekend to prepared for disaster situations at the Oklahoma Task Force Training Center.

One of them was Royce the Labrador.

He worked with his handler, Judy Zinn, with Oklahoma Task Force One to look for anyone stuck in the rubble after a pretend tornado hit the center's pretend apartment complex.

While this is all pretend, the team has seen the real thing. Judy and Royce looked for victims at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore after the 2013 tornado.

"The kids had left just a few hours before so the backpacks were there, the coat, you know everything was still there, and so it was fairly fresh and the dogs - because we had trained for it - they just went 'shoop' right through," said Judy Zinn, Oklahoma Task Force One.

Oklahomans are used to seeing debris left after severe weather. This training gives handlers and their canines from other parts of the country the opportunity to prepare for any real disaster.

"We have mudslides from time to time," said Johanna Huxel.

Huxel and her dog Cassia are here from Seattle and started working together in South Africa.

But Johanna says no matter where you are in the world the heart to serve and help people is the same.

Huxel said, "It's a sad thing if you find somebody that died, but it's always a good thing that you give the family closure and it gives your dog - you know that your dog can work, you know that your dog can do the job."

The dogs and their handlers proved they can do the job, when they found the pretend survivor they were looking for in the rubble.

The company Superfit Canine from Philadelphia came to Tulsa to provide the training, which put dogs and their handlers in real-world situations to prepare them for disasters. 

"The conditions here are actually almost too ideal for training because it’s 80 degrees, you got 20 mph winds, it's nice and clear. This is the perfect scenario to fix or improve our K9s and to also challenge them," said Eric Darling, Superfit Canine Owner.

Teams came from Washington, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Louisiana.