Handler Mitch Henderson of the South Carolina Search & Rescue Dog Association (SCSARDA), a non-profit, all-volunteer professional search and rescue team dedicated to finding missing people with highly trained search dogs, has attained a first national certification from the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) in cadaver detection with K9 Penny. NAPWDA specializes in the development, improvement, training and certification of police work dogs and assists in certifying working dog teams on various all-volunteer and other teams.
Handler Henderson with yellow Labrador K9 Penny passed the three-day cadaver detection certification test, which included searches for human remains in 12 different scenarios in six areas, including rubble (simulating a collapsed building), vehicles, water, open wilderness, building, and buried. Cadaver detection tests also require NAPWDA police obedience certification, which includes off-leash heeling, voice and hand signal commands, and emergency down.
Henderson, an explosive detection handler with K2 Solutions, is also a volunteer with Wellford Police Department, and was a residual operator at Spartanburg Water for 23 years. He has eight years of K9 SAR experience and also trained and handled Labrador K9 Remington for NAPWDA certification in trailing, as well as achieved IPWDA certification in explosive detection with another K9. Henderson is a certified rescue diver with 25 years of experience in fire fighting as a former volunteer with the Boiling Springs Fire Department. SCSARDA team members take additional coursework in lost person behavior, managing the land search operation, and other advanced SAR courses as well as HazMat, Blood Borne Pathogens, and Crime Scene Preservation. All SCSARDA members take Incident Command System (ICS) 100, 200, 700, 800, a Fundamentals of Search and Rescue class, CPR, and First Aid.
“Human remains detection (HRD) dogs are very important tools for us as they help round out our K9 SAR abilities in the field when we hunt for missing persons,” said Marion Tisdale, an officer with SCSARDA and area search handler with K9 Maya. “They also can provide much-needed closure for families in the event of the death of a loved one who is missing. We are very fortunate to have a handler on our team as experienced as Mitch, who has achieved certifications now in trailing, cadaver detection, and explosives detection with three different dogs. Our team takes a lot of pride in developing highly skilled K9 SAR handlers and Mitch is certainly a strong representative of our philosophy.”
“NAPWDA’s Master Trainers offer our K9 teams an experienced, outside eye to observe and assess us,” Henderson said. “I am very grateful to Neil Raymond, a retired sergeant with 30 years of experience with the Massachusetts State Police and one of 11 NAPWDA cadaver detection evaluators in the country, for his time and experience during this latest NAPWDA certification. Neil has a lifetime of experience training and evaluating canine teams in multiple disciplines. We always learn so much from the NAPWDA master trainers’ advice and insight.”
The South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association (SCSARDA) is an all-volunteer professional search and rescue team with highly trained search dogs dedicated to helping find those who are lost, from children to hikers to drowning victims to those with Alzheimer’s. Founded in 2002, SCSARDA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which serves as a specialized resource for emergency services agencies. We respond to requests from emergency services agencies on a 24/7 basis and our services are provided entirely free of charge. For more information on SCSARDA visit http://www.scsarda.org or like https://www.facebook.com/SCSARDAK9.