July 10, 2017

Four handler and dog teams of the South Carolina Search & Rescue Dog Association (SCSARDA) -- Mitch Henderson with K9 Remington, Sarah Hey with K9 Brand, Nancy Jocoy with K9 Beau, and Maria Pellegrino with K9 Duke -- have attained national certifications from the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) in trailing, SAR area search, and cadaver detection respectively. NAPWDA specializes in the development, improvement, training and certification of police work dogs and assists in certifying working dog teams on various all-volunteer and other teams.

Handler Mitch Henderson with Labrador Retriever K9 Remington passed the trailing certification test, which is to include a one and a half mile trail with three turns, aged at least one hour, and varied surfaces such as vegetation, pavement, and water. Handler Sarah Hey with Siberian Husky mix K9 Brand passed the search and rescue area search test which includes a dog clearing an area while off-leash, finding, and alerting to handler on a hidden subject. Handlers Nancy Jocoy with German Shepherd K9 Beau and Maria Pellegrino with German Shepherd K9 Duke passed the cadaver detection certification test, which included searches for human remains in 12 different scenarios in six areas, including rubble [simulating a collapsed building], vehicles, water, open wilderness, building, and buried. Area search and cadaver detection tests also require NAPWDA police obedience certification, which includes off-leash heeling, voice and hand signal commands, and emergency down. Beau and Duke have taken and passed the NAPWDA cadaver detection test every year for the past five and seven years respectively.

Henderson, Hey, Jocoy, and Pellegrino are long-time members of SCSARDA and have taken coursework in lost person behavior, managing the land search operation, and other advanced search and rescue courses. Henderson, a residual operator at Spartanburg Water and a volunteer fire fighter with the Boiling Springs Fire Department, has five years of K9 SAR experience and holds the NASAR SAR Tech II certification. He is a certified rescue diver with 25 years of experience in fire fighting. Hey, a marketing strategy and brand management consultant, has seven years of K9 SAR experience; K9 Brand, who has NAPWDA-certified in SAR area search three times, is her first SAR dog. Jocoy, a senior quality engineer with a large non-profit, has more than 13 years of experience in K9 SAR and holds the NASAR SAR Tech II certification. Pellegrino, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Greenville Hospital System, has more than 15 years of experience in K9 SAR and holds the NASAR SarTech II certification. She also maintains a paramedic certification, has EMS supervisory experience, and has served on a dive rescue team, as well as with air medical helicopter services. All SCSARDA members take Incident Command System (ICS) 100, 200, 700, 800, a Fundamentals of Search and Rescue class, CPR, and First Aid.

"We are very thankful to receive testing from NAPWDA's experienced Master Trainers, Neil Raymond, retired sergeant and K9 trainer in the Massachusetts State Police, and Sgt. C. R. Jones of the NC State Highway Patrol," said Maria Pellegrino, President of SCSARDA. "Each time we test they offer so much wisdom on how we can improve our handling techniques and develop the best K9 SAR teams possible. SCSARDA is very fortunate to be able to field NAPWDA-certified teams in three disciplines -- trailing, area search, and land and water cadaver detection – to assist emergency services agencies in finding missing persons. It is a real privilege to serve agencies in South and North Carolina, and also to lead this team, which is full of very talented and dedicated human beings and some uniquely skilled K9s."

The South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association (SCSARDA) is an all-volunteer professional search and rescue team with highly trained search dogs dedicated to helping find those who are lost, from children to hikers to drowning victims to those with Alzheimer's. Founded in 2002, SCSARDA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which serves as a specialized resource for emergency services agencies. We respond to requests from emergency services agencies on a 24/7 basis and our services are provided entirely free of charge. For more information on SCSARDA surf to http://www.scsarda.org.

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