Wiltshire Publications

Westbury-based dog training group is saving lives – but needs your help

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 at 12:02 pm.

James Lewis with his dog, Molly, during training.

IF there’s an earthquake, flood or natural disaster in the world, a Westbury based group could be the first people on the scene helping to save lives.

And the group, run by Westbury volunteer James Lewis is looking for your help. James runs a specialist dog search team and is looking for derelict buildings or farmlands to use for training and also volunteers to act as ‘bodies’ to help train the dogs.

James is a volunteer for Serve on Search and Rescue, a Salisbury charity which operates international response teams to deal with disasters throughout the world.  He is a member of the organisation’s dog search team and works together with the police to train dogs to search for vulnerable people including fallen elderly or missing children in all kinds of situations including earthquakes and floods.

“The dogs are an important part of our team and accelerate any search process by locating casualties or narrowing down the search area,” said James. “They are trained to locate live casualties and are currently training to search in and around water.”

James’ dog Molly specialises in collapsed structures such as those fallen by earthquakes. She is only two-years-old but has completed the whole training programme in less than a year.

The Westbury-based training group is now looking to develop a team in the area for future development and have openings for those interested in becoming dog trainers or to become volunteers, willing to act as a body to be used in training. The only requirement is that you have your own dog or enjoy working with dogs.

James said, “It’s so rewarding,  as a body you learn about wind scent and how the dogs track lost people. During training, you are asked to hide in places mimicking the situation of natural disasters. As you learn more, you help to make the dog work harder by developing your understanding of how the process works, and hiding in more difficult places.

“We also help to provide training in communication skills, map reading and first aid; valuable skills to take forward. You can come along and try before you commit.

“We are also looking for more local areas to train. At the moment, we are travelling 100+ miles round trips just to travel to suitable areas to train. If you know or own anywhere suitable – derelict buildings, open spaces with rubble or farmland please get in contact. We train on a Sunday morning and are looking to come to an arrangement with land owners to continue the training work we do.”

If you are interested in volunteering, becoming a dog trainer or know of any training areas available in the Westbury area, then contact the charity via their website www.serveon.org.uk or send a message to James on james.lewis@serveon.org.uk

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