Seven search-and-rescue dogs in Taiwan are UN-certified, the National Fire Agency’s Special Search and Rescue Team said yesterday as it took part in an annual drill held to mark National Disaster Prevention Day.
Taiwan has about 30 search-and-rescue dogs, spread across eight units, dog handler Chou Tsung-chi (周聰吉) said.
Of nine UN-certified search-and-rescue dogs in Asia, seven are in Taiwan and two are in Japan, he said, adding that it means they can be sent on humanitarian missions by the UN.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
As the seven dogs have only recently been certified, they have not yet taken part in international rescue missions, Chou said.
Taiwan began training search-and-rescue dogs after the 921 Earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999, when dogs from abroad joined the rescue efforts and helped locate many people, Chou said.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) observed the drill and held one of the certified dogs on the team — a six-year-old Jack Russell terrier nicknamed Le Le (樂樂) — in her arms for a group photograph.
Le Le is responsible for performing search-and-rescue work in tight spaces, Chou said.
When buildings collapse during earthquakes, rescues rely on small dogs like Le Le that can enter through tiny gaps in buildings to search for survivors and victims, he said.
Le Le is the first Jack Russell to be trained into a search-and-rescue dog in Taiwan, the agency said, adding that it has also trained labrador retrievers, among other breeds.
Tsai told attendants that she would task the Executive Yuan with mapping the areas of disaster prevention that could be more precise and faster.
When faced with earthquakes, storms or floods, national agencies and local governments must apply the same standard operating procedures, update one another, divide tasks appropriately and cooperate, she said, adding that she would assess the improvements to the system on next year’s National Disaster Prevention Day.
Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the 921 Earthquake, which took the lives of 2,456 people.
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