The Ramapo Rescue Dog Association is skilled at a variety of search and rescue situations including:

  • Children lost within a community
  • Hikers or hunters missing in rural or wilderness areas
  • Elderly persons disoriented near their residence
  • Individuals buried under rubble in disaster situations
  • Victims missing from downed aircraft or motor vehicles
  • Deceased persons submerged in water or buried
  • Crime scene searches and evidence recovery for investigative agencies

Our unit can be mobilized for a search by any official agency through our 24-hour alerting coordinators, the River Vale, NJ Police: Telephone (201) 664-1111.

Where feasible, overland transportation to the search scene is provided by individual unit members. However, air transportation to more distant searches can often be arranged through private means or the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fl.

In order to provide a better understanding for the use of the search dog, unit members also conduct lectures and demonstrations for agencies and other interested groups.

As a non-profit organization, all services of the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association are free of charge.


The SAR dog unit is composed of a base of operations and individual dog/handler teams which consist of a German Shepherd Dog and its handler. Both the dog and handler spend many hours training together so as to be proficient in search methods under many conditions. Each handler is competent in map griding, compass work, emergency first aid, victim evacuation, radio procedure, victim behavior, and search strategy.

SAR management, under the direction of an operational leader, includes victim behavior evaluation, search planning, and probable area analysis. Each dog/handler team is assigned an individual tract of land to search, and all teams work simultaneously. In this way, extensive areas can be covered in a relatively short period of time. Every handler, while in the field, is in constant radio contact with the unit’s base of operations, and all search areas are systematically plotted on a base camp coordination map.

The Ramapo Unit, where required, is prepared to be self-sufficient in the field for five days. The unit works to assist the agency search director in all phases of the total search.


The dogs utilized by the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association are generally known as “air-scenting” dogs. All human beings give off odor or scent, portions of which are carried away from the body by the various air currents. Working off leash and ranging some distance from his handler, the search dog is trained to pick up any human scent in the area and to move to its source.  After making the “find”, the dog must return to his handler and lead him back to the subject.  This “recall/refind” is particularly useful in conditions of low visibility as occur, for example, during night operations or in extreme brush situations.

The dog/handler teams will work their assigned areas systematically, generally executing large, sweeping patterns into the wind.  The patterns will be adjusted to suit existing conditions and such variables as wind, weather and terrain.