The Search and Rescue Dog Department of the Hellenic Rescue Team was established to provide support to the other departments in searching for missing people. More specifically, specially-trained dogs take part in searching for trapped persons after a destructive earthquake, they detect survivors in the snow after an avalanche and locate missing people in open areas.
The Department is directly administered by the Central Administration of the HRT and is comprised of members from the organisation’s branches throughout Greece. The head of the department is appointed by the Management Board and he or she appoints an assistant.
The department’s training includes local meetings of the dog handler teams from each branch as well as an annual national training for all the teams. The department participates in the exercises of the local Disaster Response Departments and other similar nationwide exercises.
The Search and Rescue Dog Department was established in 2002 and was headed by Kostas Kastaniotis, thanks to whose efforts the Hellenic Research Team became a member of the International Rescue Dog Organisation (IRO). Starting with two dogs (Ingo and Zoi) and with handlers Kastaniotis himself and Marina Kalaitzi, the Search and Rescue Dog Department took part in many trainings as well as in the Hellenic Rescue Team’s mission to Algeria after the powerful earthquake there. In 2007 Katerina Batsioudi became head of the department and in the first year of its operations the department already had two search and rescue dogs, Proteas, handled by Batsioudi herself, and Ira from the Corfu branch of the HRT, handled by Friderikos Valsamis. In 2011 Nikos Psathas of the HRT Messenia branch and handler of Orpheas, was appointed Deputy Head of the Department and the Department participated for the first time in the IRO International Congress in France, gaining useful knowledge and experience. Today, the Department has 11 search and rescue dog handler teams, with the HRT Larissa branch as frontrunner with four dogs and eight assistant handlers who take part in the department’s training and exercises.
The daily training required by the search and rescue dog handler team makes this department a particularly demanding one. The special relationship between a handler and his or her dog, the unique bonds that are formed, as well as the rewards when a life is found and rescued make all of us at the Search and Rescue Dog Department try harder each day and with all our love for our four-legged friends and admiration for their skills to serve humans selflessly and with unconditional love.