Due to be demolished, Tacoma school building becomes dog training ground

The goal is to hone the life skills dogs will need for urban disaster relief.

TACOMA, Wash. — School was in session Sunday at Fawcett Elementary in Tacoma, but for a different group of students.

The building is due for demolition in March and was the perfect environment for the Northwest Disaster Search Dogs, a nonprofit group that trains dogs for urban search and rescue.

“It’s a great opportunity for the dogs. We don’t have a lot of opportunities like these research buildings,” said Janiece Miller, president of Northwest Disaster Search Dogs.

This opportunity allowed the dogs to hone their skills in more complex environments, making them more effective in the field. The goal of Northwest Disaster Search Dogs is to provide trained dogs, handlers and support personnel to people trapped in the aftermath of a disaster.

“Air movement in buildings can be quite challenging,” Miller said. “You may have someone hiding in a closet on this side, but their smell goes up to the ceiling and maybe hits the wall. So sometimes we’ll see dogs barking on the wall of the room. other side just because of the smell picture. So that gives dogs a chance to work on those more challenging scent images.”

Dogs play a vital role in saving lives in disaster relief operations, as their size allows them to get into hard-to-reach areas and find people before it’s too late.

“They can go to places where it’s not safe for people to go, and they can locate a person and that lets us know to put resources into that area. So they can be a huge asset because they can do things that no other resource can,” Miller said.

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