Spotlight: Search and Rescue Dogs of Ontario by Dave Walker

Dave Walker-‘Wile E.’, Marianne Ivancsics-‘Bliss’, Ray Lau-‘Ace’, Hetty Abma-‘Ryker’

The Search and Rescue Dogs of Ontario (SAR) have provided a unique and valuable service to many communities across Ontario since 2004 in the search for lost or missing persons at no cost to requesting police agencies.

They are Volunteer SAR Canine members of the Hamilton Police Service (Hamilton, Ontario). The Hamilton Police Service is one of the only Police agencies in Ontario where unpaid professional SAR canine teams are deployed within the service alongside regular members in ground search and rescue operations.

The team consists of four Dutch Shepherds.  Several of the dogs in the unit were rescued or adopted from situations where they were not wanted – now they rescue humans.  The unit also maintains 2 retired SAR dogs and three new puppies that will be replacing them in the near future.

The Hamilton Police Service Volunteer Search and Rescue Canine Teams are also members of the Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association (OSARVA), where the canine teams certify annually to the Ontario Provincial Police Civilian Search and Rescue Canine Standards.

All handlers attend yearly Ground Search & Rescue (GSAR) Training/Certification with both the Hamilton Police Service and OSARVA/OPP.  This training includes map & compass, GPS training, first-aid, CPR, wilderness survival, lost person behaviour, search patterns, etc.

The canine teams are trained in tracking (foot prints), area searching (air-scenting), article searching, obedience, and agility. The dogs are trained to find both live and deceased persons.

All SAR Canine Teams have completed an initial 52 week basic training course which was over 1200 hours long.

The teams regularly train all year round every Saturday (8 hrs) and every Wednesday (4hrs) to maintain their annual certification and also to keep their skills in a mission ready status to assist the police in the search for lost or missing persons.

Ray Lau and “ACE” received worldwide media attention and recognition for their efforts in finding a woman alive who was buried in the snow for three days in Ancaster, Ontario days before Christmas 2008.




All of the SAR Canines are fed CANIDAE All Life Stages or CANIDAE Chicken and Rice dog food which has proven to be excellent at providing the nutrition these hard working dogs need to stay healthy, provide them with energy, and keep them physically fit in sometimes dangerous and demanding environments. As a reward for their efforts, all of the team’s dogs are given CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit treats as well.

Although provincially certified by the OPP and the Hamilton Police Service, Search & Rescue Dogs Ontario is a non-profit organization and does not receive any government funding.  Generous donations from the community are their sole source of funding.

We wish to acknowledge and thank Canadian Pet Connection for their ongoing support as the official sponsor of our team.

For more information on our volunteer canine teams and how to make a donation to Search and Rescue Dogs Ontario please visit:

Dave Walker
Training Director, Search & Rescue Dogs Ontario

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