The launch of Search Dog Heroes

On World Alzheimer’s Day, Missing People and Lowland Rescue announced the launch of Search Dog Heroes, a national project which is aiming to train 100 trailing search dogs, and equip those caring for people such as those living with Dementia, with the knowledge and tools to act fast if their loved one was to go missing. The charities have been awarded £1 million by People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund.

Somebody goes missing in the UK every 90 seconds. When a person is reported missing, their level of risk is categorised by the investigating police force, and will depend on circumstances such as their age, mental health and medical conditions. People living with Dementia can feel the urge to walk about, and in some cases, leave their home. Problems with orientation may make it difficult to find their way back, and contributing factors such as extreme weather and other medical conditions could increase their risk of coming to harm whilst missing.

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, most of whom are at great risk of going missing. The project will educate members of the public who have a vulnerable loved one in how to prepare for this devastating moment so that the search can be launched quickly and with the very best resources at hand. A fast-acting and accurate search could, in some cases, literally be the difference between life and death.

Lowland Rescue is in the process of assessing multiple dogs across the country, to establish which will be suitable to enter a 12 month training scheme where they will learn to track an individual scent; a process which could prove critical during a search for a high risk missing person.

Working with expert scientists in the field of trailing dogs and scent detection, the project is testing, developing and refining the process for capturing and storing a person’s scent. Specialist search dogs will trail the scent of a missing individual, resulting in a much more accurate direction of travel and thus search strategy, and in best case scenarios, leading us straight to the person. Ultimately helping to save more lives, when every second counts.

Purpose-made scent kits will be available over the coming months, with full instructions on how to capture and safely store a scent. Once the project is fully operational with trained dogs being deployed across the country, the scent article could be used in moments of crisis if the person was to go missing. Details of the person which are stored with the scent kit would offer an additional source of information to aid with the police search.