K-9s go through intense certification exam to become search-and-rescue dogs

CASTAIC, Calif. (KABC) -- K-9 units play a vital role in search-and-rescue efforts where lives are at stake, and their training certification isn't taken lightly.

Eva is a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, but she isn't your average dog.

She is a search-and-rescue K-9 with Los Angeles County Fire and was part of a team of dogs that helped rescue and recover victims in the Montecito mudslides.

"Their sense of scent is a million times stronger than ours. So we train them to look out for that particular scent we're looking for, whether it be a live scent or a human remains scent ," Capt. Manny Sampang said.

This weekend at the Del Valle training center, 22 dogs and their handlers from all over the country participated in the annual K-9 certification exam.

The dogs have 20 minutes to find several victims inside piles of rubble. If they alert their handler and there isn't a victim - it's an automatic fail.

"They're very high-drive dogs. That's what makes them good search dogs," Sampang said.

Officials said the dogs can do what humans can't, which allows rescuers to find missing victims in massive disaster areas similar to what has been seen in Montecito.

"For instance, we had a search in Montecito where a human remains dog pinpointed an area 25 feet down where we ended up finding a victim," Sampang said.
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