Help Strengthen Disaster Response With National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

Dogs love and need to work. They want nothing more than to be with humans, be active, and have a sense of purpose. 

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation gathers rescued abandoned and abused dogs and trains them to become search rescuers. 

Read on to learn more about the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Find out how they started, what they do, and how you can contribute to the organization. 

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National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

Who is the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation?

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is an organization that is passionate about strengthening disaster response in the USA.

Although the foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, it has collaborated with local government agencies for rescue operations. 

It’s based in Santa Paula, California, and is the only organization in the country that recruits rescued dogs and provides them with professional training for search dog certification. 

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation staff trains and partners these four-legged companions with firefighters and other responders to help rescue people.

Most of the dogs in the organization are trained to find people buried alive in disasters like fire, storms, and earthquakes. 

SDF has trained over 200 teams and has deployed 193 disaster and missing person searches. There are 78 trained dog rescue teams in California, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and more.

How National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Started

You might assume that a social worker, firefighter, or dog breeder founded the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. But it was actually a retired schoolteacher named Wilma Melville who established the organization.

It started when Wilma and her FEMA-Certified Search Dog, Murphy, were deployed to Oklahoma for a bombing incident. It inspired Wilma to train more dogs for this task.

She knew the country had a severe Canine Disaster Search Teams shortage. So she tried to fill the gap by establishing the non-profit organization, National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. 

Before SDF created an effective program, the success rate for search dog certification was only 15%. But the pre-screening and rigorous training provided by SDF has increased successful search dogs to 85%.

What do the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Do?

The task of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is to recruit dogs from across the country. To double its accomplishments, they work with rescued, abandoned, and abused dogs who deserve purpose and fulfillment.

These dogs need to channel their energy, boldness, and tenacity, making them qualified for search and rescue tasks. Then, the dogs are trained to harness their skills. 

The dogs receive eight to ten months of professional training. This pre-training helps attain FEMA Advanced Certification in a reduced time. 

SDF partners with the best firefighters and first responders who can handle disaster situations and the chaos, danger, and trauma that comes with them. 

It also stays in touch with handlers so that dogs can quickly help in such operations. 

The organization takes advantage of dogs’ remarkable sense of smell and ability to ignore other scents when rescuing individuals. It also trains the dogs to quickly and safely navigate unstable and slippery terrain.

Other skills they are taught include negotiating dangerous surfaces and working off-leash to get to places humans cannot access. 

How Can You Help the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation?

It costs about $50,000 to recruit, care for, and train each dog, partner them with a firefighter handler, and provide training to the team. 

But the organization does this at no cost to fire departments and other disaster response agencies.

That’s why they need your help now more than ever. SDF offers various options for individuals and companies who want to help. 


The easiest way to help is with a donation. Visit the donation page, enter the donation amount, input your email name and other essential information, and submit. 

You can also give an estate gift and leave a life-saving legacy. The Guardian Endowment Fund guarantees that the dogs will continue to respond to disasters for many years. 


You might also want to sponsor a search dog, become a corporate partner, get involved in workplace giving, or via IRA rollover. 


You can also volunteer and donate the gift of time to SDF. They are always in search of volunteers. If you’re interested, you can fill out the form here

Share On Social

Lastly, you can also raise awareness and spread the word through social media. This action is free, and will go a long way to helping the SDF. Here are links to their social media:

Contribute to National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Now

The government doesn’t fund the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and its services do not involve profit. 

But many people and companies support its passion for strengthening disaster response in America.

If you want the organization to continue training dogs to engage in search and rescue operations, why not donate or volunteer for the organization?

Find out more about the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation to donate, leave a legacy, or volunteer.

Find out how to help other animal charities we love in our Animal Charity Spotlight series.