SEARCH Dog Heroes are poised to track down vulnerable missing people and bring them home as part of a ground-breaking £1m project launched today.
The life-saving initiative, a partnership between charities Missing People and Lowland Rescue, will use the specially-trained dogs to help find people living with dementia and other conditions that could put them at high risk of harm when they go missing.
It is being rolled out across England, the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland, thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the Postcode Dream Fund.
The first dogs, who can follow the scent of a vulnerable missing person, have entered into service in Berkshire and Jersey this week, with more coming online, and rolling out across the wider country in the coming months.
Once the dogs and handlers are qualified, the police can use them as part of the search for a vulnerable missing person.
Dog handler and Lowland Rescue volunteer Michelle Bouchard, of St Peter, Jersey, whose dog Peggy is one of two dogs who have completed the training, said:
“Peggy is a little bit shy, but the training gave her confidence, and she really took to it.
“It’s a real honour to be part of this, and we are hoping that it inspires many more people to get involved.”
Jo Armstrong and her dog Roo have also completed the training. They are based in Berkshire and have already taken part in a search, within 48 hours of being made operational.
Roo supported a successful search for someone thought to be missing from a care home.
Missing People and Lowland Rescue have developed scent kits, which allow the carers or relatives of vulnerable people to collect the scent of the person and store it securely.
The trailing search dogs, trained by Lowland Rescue, can use the scent to track down the missing person quickly, to reduce the risk of them coming to harm. Someone living with dementia goes missing every five hours in the UK.
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “I am delighted to see Dream Fund project ‘Search Dog Heroes’ officially launch. We are very excited to see the trained dogs working to bring people home thanks to the charities our players support, Missing People and Lowland Rescue. At People’s Postcode Lottery we aim to enable charities to come together and work collaboratively on fantastic projects like this.
“We hope that Search Dog Heroes will be an invaluable resource to help find missing vulnerable people, such as those living with dementia or a learning disability and bring peace of mind for their carers.”
Lowland Rescue Chairman, Gareth Pritchard – QPM, said: “We are really pleased that we now have two dogs trained and ready to go out into their communities and find vulnerable people. At Lowland Rescue our specially-trained professional volunteers are regularly on the front line working alongside the police searching for people who have disappeared and this is a valuable extension to our search assets. It has been fantastic to work with Missing People on this project which has the potential to help our teams save even more lives, and we are grateful to People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund who have made it all possible.”
Missing People CEO Jo Youle said: “With someone going missing in the UK every 90 seconds, and vulnerable people being particularly at risk, we are hoping that the launch of our scent kits and the training of our search dogs will make a real difference to people’s lives. Thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, carers of vulnerable people will be able to act fast if a loved one goes missing.
“Someone living with dementia is reported missing every five hours, and 1,800 disappear every year. Missing People and Lowland Rescue aim to use search dogs to save lives.”