Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service recently welcomed black Labrador Harley onto it’s specialist search team bringing the total of Hampshire’s search and rescue dogs to five.

In the spirit of the Olympics Harley has just been awarded his own Bronze Award through the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme. Harley’s handler Station Manager Graham Howlett explained:

‘This is the first stage of training that a dog has to complete prior to commencing the specialist search and rescue training. Harley displayed fantastic obedience through the 10 tests he had to complete and passed the Bronze Award with flying colours and no minus points.

'This is an excellent achievement, especially as he has only been with us for 10 weeks and commenced training for the award five weeks ago.’

One year old Harley is registered with the Kennel Club as a working dog, coming from a good line of working dogs from a gamekeeper near Doncaster who breeds gundogs.

Previous litters have resulted in dogs being supplied to five other UK fire and rescue services and around the world for other specialist roles.

Graham continued: ‘With his experience as a working dog and his good nature Harley displayed the appropriate qualities that we require in a potential candidate.

'Harley is due to take the Silver Award at the beginning of September and complete the Gold award six weeks after.

'It takes between 18 months and two years for a dog to complete the extensive training schedule to meet National Standards and qualify as a fully fledged search and rescue dog.’

Graham and Harley - one man and his dog Credit: Hants Fire and Rescue

There are currently 15 fire and rescue services that support UK-International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR). Of these, 12 have dog teams based across England and Wales which form a vital element of UK-ISAR response to disasters across the globe.

Each team consists of one dog and handler, together with a safety coordinator. The dog handlers are qualified Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) technicians which have also successfully completed the National Resilience Canine Competency process.

In their efforts to locate casualties in disaster zones the specially trained crews work with a wide range of technical equipment, including search cameras and listening devices. The dogs are a valuable asset by adding the extra dimension of locating live casualties through their keen sense of smell and they have attended over 40 incidents involving suspected trapped casualties in the past 12 months.