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National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Protection & Welfare, Animals, Disaster Aid, Disaster Preparedness & Relief Services, Emergency Medical Services & Transport, Health, Search & Rescue Squads

Mission: Our mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by producing highly skilled Canine-Firefighter Disaster Search Teams to search for victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. We are the only organization in the U.S. that recruits rescued dogs, gives them ongoing professional training, and partners them with firefighters and other first responders at no cost to their departments.

Programs: Produced dogs trained in search and rescue with fire fighter handlers directly influencing how disaster search dogs are trained nationally.

Community Stories

27 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've know about the Search Dog Foundation since it's inception in 1996 and have followed it since then. I have now been volunteering for a few years so I see first-hand what they do. The dogs they rescue are then turned into rescuers! They are trained by the highly professional staff at SDF and then matched with a first responder (fireman/fire woman). The dog lives with its handler 24/7 and are always ready to be deployed to any disaster. These dogs just love to work. It's nice to know that if a disaster happens, these highly trained dogs and their handlers will be there for you!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been both a donor and a volunteer for SDF for about four or five years now. They have grown a lot in that time and are in the process of making founder, Wilma Melville's dream of a state-of-the-art training facility, a reality. Through all the growth, they have retained that small operation mentality of thanking their donors and making everyone feel a part of the organization. Funds raised actually go where they are needed rather than to marketing. Volunteers are a big part of that philosophy!

snyderpata

Donor

Rating: 5

I'm so happy to support this wonderful charity...it is MY FAVORITE! I have followed them for 5-6 years, and have sponsored a dog the last 2 years, and will sponsor another one this year, also! I love the idea that they obtain their candidate dogs from shelters, donated dogs or from no-kill organizations.....the dogs who prove suitable to become a Search & Rescue dog find their "new career", and are so happy with their new job! The trained dogs are donated to a Fire Department at the successful end of their 9 months training. Here are the 2 dogs I have sponsored in the last 2 years...Clancy and Merlin (shown with their wonderful firefighter handlers)!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

One of my facorite charities!! Dogs are recruited from Rescues and strays, or abandoned animals. They are then trained for 9 months to the speciality of Search & Rescue.. If they pass the rigorous training program, then are then paired with a Firefighter, and donated to his/ her fire department! This is taking a discarded dog ( who would probably be euthanized), and giving them a full and rewarding life!! This is all funded with private donations....how much better could it be???

Review from Guidestar

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2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been on the outside looking in for about 10 years now, watching it grow, get better and amaze me. This organization knows what it is doing and wants to do, to help the world when a National Disaster strikes. Not only do they rescue shelter dogs that no one wanted and turn them into life saving rescuers. If they are not right for the program, they find those dogs homes, never to be returned to a shelter.
The more teams trained, the more lives saved.

1 Linda418

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first met Wima Melville, the founder of this Foundation, in 1996. I have followed the Search Dogs since then, and am lucky enough to finally be retired and able to be a volunteer for them. I see firsthand the dedication of all those involved in Search Dogs. Every donor is very much appreciated, no matter what amount is being donated. These Search Dogs provide such a valuable service anytime there is a major disaster. I have watched a little of their training, and these dogs are so well trained and ready to face any disaster they are sent to. This is a very worthwhile non-profit organization.

1 Pam_121

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer for SDF, as well as a donor, I can attest to the fact that your donations actually go to the cause! They have a very small paid staff and the rest is volunteer based. Every donation, large and small, is acknowledged with a letter with a handwritten note. I write many of these notes so this is first hand knowledge. They get no governmental support; strictly donor supported. They rescue the dogs, train them, train the handlers and pair them together at no cost to the fire departments. All dogs rescued will go to a family if they don't complete training. They are never returned to a shelter once they are rescued.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just can't say enough expressing how amazing SDF is! I first heard about SDF after 911 and have followed their work since. I was so excited that their office is in Ojai was able to visit a few times. Working with SDF became my "dream job" and goal . I started out going to all their special events and got to know Wilma, she is a incredible lady and knows how to make her dreams come true. My life changed forever when I found out that The National Training Center was going to be built not only here in Santa Paula but right across the road from where I live !! I was so excited and it has been so incredible watching NTC being built. 2 years ago our family adopted Calvin a black lab who just wasn't thrilled about a rubble pile and looking for a lifetime care home. SDF has always kept in touch and even sent out trainer Lyz Gregory to work with me and Calvin. I needed a lot more training than Calvin did! Well that did it, after seeing Lyz work with Calvin I was so impressed that I was determined to volunteer as often as I could. Lyz invited me to NTC , everyone was so friendly and really cared about the dogs . I saw my "dream job" !
For the last year I have volunteered once or twice a week to help out where I can. I have learned so much just being around Sonja and Lyz. They are the best! I have also taken many ,many photos of the dogs and I am so pleased to see some of the photos in SDF publications and Facebook . Everyone , trainers, office staff and fellow volunteers always make me feel like family and appreciated. They are the most professional and caring people I know. Thanks SDF for helping me live my dream !

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was first told about SDF through my College. They said the Search Dog Foundation occasionally needed volunteer photographers and since I just graduated and love dogs I decided to try it out. Honestly I had no idea who they were and what they were about until I went to my first volunteer event. It was great fun but also very structured and informative. The staff was all very friendly and seeing the dogs in action was amazing. I have now photographed several events for them. They also asked me to join their team in Ojai and now I'm officially part of the SDF staff. I've gotten to know all of them and they are all very nice and hard workers. I have also been to pairings, when the dogs get paired with their new handlers, and that is one of the best things to see. I've interacted with several candidate dogs and they are all high energy, very barky but also very friendly and some of the sweetest dogs out there. I've also met the trainers who are very amazing. And I have met some of the people behind the scenes and of course Wilma the founder, who is something else. Very funny, lively and sweet. She also knows what she wants and how to get it. The Search Dog Foundation is truly an amazing organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I worked off and on volunteering with SDF, taking a break when I had school. Every time I came in they were ready for me with clear instructions and materials organised, and waiting for my help. I always felt appreciated and a part of the team even though my tasks were so minimal. On several occasions I had to cancel or was late for my volunteer time and I was never met with any disappointment, only understanding and appreciation for whatever time I could give. Everyone in the office is friendly and welcoming. I learned a lot about the role of the SDF and was surprised at the amount of personal care that is given to each individual involved in the program.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Living in Ojai I've always seen SDF when driving by but never knew what or how it was run. Then through a school post I saw they needed volunteers for the summer, so here was my chance! They do more than anyone can ever imagine, with their very amazing and dedicated staff just a handful of people run everything. We all see what the dogs are capable of when they are out searching for the people, but what goes into that to get them ready is absolutely amazing! I have to say I am very lucky to have been able to come in and volunteer with them and with the help of them I know what I want to do in my life. Thanks SDF!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I was paired with Roxy 1 year ago, I never in a million years thought I'd be as happy as I am to get to work with her every day. Roxy was a stray in the Sacramento area, when someone found her and took her in, only to find that she had too much energy to be a normal pet. She was surrendered to a shelter, and as she was in line to be "put down", one of the great recruiters at the NDSDF found her to be a great fit as a search dog. She was taken to Gilroy, trained, and I was lucky enough to be paired with her. 10 months later, and with countless hours of training with the NDSDF staff and with other handlers in the Los Angeles area, we passed our certification test, so we can be ready to respond to any disaster.
The NDSDF is an incredible organization, that takes rescues formally discarded canines and trains them rescue men, women and children during these incredible disasters we only see on TV. Without the staff and volunteers at the NDSDF, Roxy would be wondering the streets of Sacramento, holed up in someones back yard, or worse yet, be put to sleep like the many other unclaimed pets in the country.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first became acquainted with NSDF at an event in CA, where I got to meet a couple of handlers and dogs. I was so impressed by the organization that I followed it for years, subscribed to the newsletter, and watched it grow from afar, into a the wonderful, thriving organization it is today. Recently, I've become more engaged, by writing and volunteering and helping where I can, and can't express enough how exciting and fulfilling it is to be part of such a wonderful group of people doing such amazing things. When speaking with founder, Wilma Melville, her passion for NSDF is just so palpable. Her energy and the vision she has for the continued growth of the organization so that it can broaden its reach ever further, helping out more and more people at every possible opportunity, is infectious. I am continually proud and grateful to be a part in even a small way, of NSDF.

Review from Guidestar

Suzie4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the honor and privilege of being a "part of the search" since its inception. It was amazing to hear Founder Wilma Melville describe the idea...her vision of what was to become the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.
I have contributed to the foundation in anyway possible. Volunteering, donating, transporting potential search dogs, answering phones... often right along side Wilma, or at least trying to keep up with her.
She is a humble hero and a visionary. Her commitment and perseverance to "rescuing dogs and turning them into rescuers" been an incredible journey. A journey that I am proud to continue to be a part of, as the searches continue and the Training Center becomes a reality

Judy84

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 2006 I met Wilma (the founder of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation) and I soon learned all about this wonderful organization. Being a dog lover and having just recently lost a dog Wilma mentioned the Lifetime Care Program. The next thing I knew we had adopted a dog trough the Lifetime Care program. Two years later we adopted another. I can't say enough good things about the whole experience and if we had room we would have more Lifetime Care Dogs.

As a result of getting to know Wilma and adopting two dogs from the organization I have volunteered at some of the events at the National Training Center and found things to be well organized and felt very welcome.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a volunteer at SDF. This organization is dedicated to the end results- a successful search. All the staff a SDF are the best professionals in the field who make this non-profit work smoothly and efficeintly.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF) for several years and have also donated on several occasions. This is an incredible organization! The staff members are dedicated professionals who are committed to disaster response and who are passionate about what they do. Wilma Melville, the founder, is very down-to-earth and visits the office and National Training Center (NTC) site on a regular basis. What she has accomplished in a relatively short period of time is truly mind boggling.........from NDSDF's inception in 1996 to breaking ground at the NTC in 2010. Debra Tosch, the director, is tireless in her pursuit of NDSDF's goals and is an enthusiastic and effective leader. The organization is small but impactful. I love the fact that NDSDF rescues dogs and then provides them with a purpose in life. Watching the search dogs in action is an amazing experience. Their energy is boundless. I could not have picked a better organization with which to volunteer. NDSDF is top-notch!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It's hard to think of a more dire situation than being trapped in a collapsed structure as a result of a man made or natural disaster. I can only begin to imagine the despair such an experience would entail for the victim and their loved ones. I think it's likely in such a horrible situation that one's life might come down to the skill and training of a search dog and it's handler. While none of us expect to find ourselves needing such assistance, we obviously live in an unpredictable world. My wife and I are reminded of this when we think back to a visit to the World Trade Center only two days before it was destroyed.

I have been volunteering with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation for approximately six months. I feel as if every few hours I can spare their expert trainers from other tasks affords them more quality training time with their canine partners. The chance that my minor efforts might someday contribute in some small way to a successful rescue is a rewarding feeling I receive no matter how seemingly insignificant the task I am assigned to complete. Having worked with canines in the military over forty years ago, it is also inspiring to be reminded of the incredible abilities of a highly trained canine.

During my time volunteering, I have been amazed at the dedication and sense of purpose exhibited by every staff person at the NDSDF. From the office staff to the expert trainers, there is a pervasive sense of dedication to making a positive contribution to the overall mission. It has truly been a rewarding privilege to volunteer with such an outstanding organization comprised of such dedicated individuals.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a amazing organization that helps when unexpected disaster strikes and the need is the greatest. Very few entities (including Search Dog Foundation) can legitimitely claim that they have resources that are ready to deploy and make an immediate positive impact. This organization is part of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) that allows US federal government employees to donate to their choice of charity. I would strongly urge federal government to contribute to this organization to help achieve its mission objectives as the work they do makes this world a better place.

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with the National Search Dog Foundation on and off for nearly 15 years. The Founder, Wilma Melville is truly an amazing person to have put together this incredibly worthy organization. The staff is small but are truly dedicated and give 110% willingly. For the funds to have been raised to make their ultimate goal of a national training center to come about is almost unbelievable. To be able to create a facility that will provide training for both the handlers (who are mostly firefighters) and the dogs at the same facility is absolutely ideal. I look forward to volunteering at the new training center and continuing to be a part of this amazing organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I am so excited about the NTC coming to life. Being a handler in Ventura California and California in general is an exciting time because of what the NTC is going to offer us as handlers. Knowing that my canine partner Ben will be given an opportunity to train in the most state of the art complex and ensuring he has the best ability to locate someone that is missing in a disaster not only brings excitement but also a somber effect with the realization that the search dog foundation is trying to emulate the real thing. Nowhere else can we get this and this will allow Ben to find the people if they are there.