Some History

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. search-dog community went through a momentous and tumultuous time. The Mexico City earthquake in 1985 inspired canine handlers from all over the country to begin working on a national disaster dog standard.

Those responding canine handlers, with incredible honesty, acknowledged that the training, certification, and response capability of the disaster teams from the United States was not adequate. The FEMA Disaster Canine system was born and is now a model for many other countries that wish to develop a disaster canine response capability.

The model of a national organization attracted the interest of wilderness search-dog handlers from all over the country. At that time, many different search-dog groups existed, some with minimal standards and frustrating performance issues.

In 1991, 11 handlers from various organizations and teams met in St. Louis to discuss the founding of a national organization devoted to excellence in canine response – from providing training opportunities to developing a comprehensive standard of certification. The result of the meeting was Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States (SARDUS).

The early days of SARDUS and FEMA both relied heavily on the expertise found in the International Rescue Dog Organization. Handlers from the United States attended seminars in Berlin, Stockholm, Austria, Prague, and Seoul. And SARDUS was asked to host an International Rescue Dog Symposium in Boulder, CO, in 1995. Front Range Rescue Dogs and SARDUS were the co-hosts. Teams from all over the world and the United States attended, and the cooperation and learning opportunities were inspiring to many.

For many years, SARDUS offered training stipends to groups all over the country to help provide the education and experience that search dog teams needed to reach excellence. In an effort to further this goal, SARDUS sponsored an evaluator seminar in Estes Park in 2009, and since then has provided numerous clinics and evaluation opportunities in Colorado, Montana, Michigan, Kansas, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. SARDUS has NIMS compliant standards in Area, Trailing, HRD, Avalanche, Water, and Disaster Search. Our website is

SARDUS remains committed to the education, training, and evaluation of canine teams, through cooperation and mutual trust with other agencies and teams.