Sarda - Latest News and Events


National Disaster Canine Workshop:

Alex Fraser Group again supported SARDA by funding two trainers from the USA to present their "Superfit Canine Workshop" over the Melbourne Cup Holiday weekend. Usar Canine teams travelled from interstate to attend this workshop which was presented by Eric & Tracy Darling. Alex Fraser Group made their Laverton North plat available for the 4 days and with the attendance at the launch of Emergency Service Commissioner Craig Lapsley PSM, Parliamentary Secretary Harriet Shing, representatives from CFA, SES & MFB after which a demonstration of both puppy training and operational training was presented to observers.

During the year, SARDA teams attended 48hour exercises and Cat.1 exercises conducted at VEMTC-Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre.


The annual Scienceworks Emergency Service Expo is always a very enjoyable day showing the children and adults the capability of trained search & rescue dogs and observing the dogs being lifted into the air by the fire services platform.  The dogs are always happy and readily available for a pat and a chat with the handers.

SARDA in 2016 has had the financial and physical support of Alex Fraser Group by supplying areas for rubble training at their concrete recycling plants at Laverton North, Clarinda and Epping.  Alex Fraser Group sponsored a Urban Search & Rescue Training Weekend at Aradale Asylum-Ararat by funding all costs to members for accommodation, meals and fuel.  This financial assistance is welcomed by handlers as part of the cost of annual training.

JUNE 2016

The past six months have been extremely busy for the SARDA Team.  June saw four dog teams pass their Operational Assessments under the auspice of Victoria Police Dog Squad. The teams who are now qualified to deploy for the next two years are:

Anne Forwood and Canine BB

Julie Cowan and Canine Will

Andrew Cowan and Canine Obi

Julie Cowan and Canine Tank

Congratualtions to all of the above as they continue to raise the standard of training and be mission ready. 

Dandenong CFA B Platoon have provided High Angle Rescue training for the SARDA teams on 3 occasions this year and members are being put into scenarios requiring lifting and lowering into smoke filled buildings and continue to search for any victims under the guidance of leading firefighters.  This training is an invaluable insight into scenarios that dog teams may be asked to deploy.


APRIL 2016

The second half of 2015 saw the SARDA teams working extremely hard toward operational status.

Assessments 2015 / 2016

Four teams passed their Fundamental Skills Assessment, Andrew Cowan and Obi, Anne Forwood and BB, Angelica Guz and Arrow (assessed in SA by SAUsar) and Julie Cowan with Will and Tank were successfully re-accredited to continue their operational status.

On June 19th, 2016,  Victoria Police Dog Squad Trainers/Assessors Snr Sgt. Sean McGovern, Sgt. Claude Silinzieds and Subject Assessor Luke Edwards are officiating operational assessments at Alex Fraser Group Claridina site.  Alex Fraser Group are very supportive of SARDA and provide training sites at their Epping, Clarinda and Laverton North sites.

Training with Dandenong CFA-B Platoon  HART

SARDA trained with Dandenong CFA –B Platoon HART (High Angle Rescue Team) and combined their rescue resources twice in 2015.  These combined exercises have benefited both SARDA teams and CFA Fire Fighters and acknowledge mutual understanding of each discipline and how to combine successfully.  In December 2015, Dandenong CFA HART was deployed to Mt. Eliza to rescue a woman and her dog that had fallen down a cliff face. The SARDA winching harness was used to rescue the dog and from the previous exercises the HART completed, they used this experience to successfully rescue dog and handler.  

Tom Middlemas Workshop

In July 2015, SARDA brought Tom Middlemas to Australia once again to conduct search training as well as night searches.  Sgt. Gary Silinzieds representing VicPol Dog Squad attended all training sessions.  Tom has been coming out to Australia bi-annually sponsored by SARDA teams since 2002 and has watched the SARDA teams progress from Landsar to Usar and on to deployments. We sincerely thank Tom for his expertise and friendship and we wish him all the best in his retirement.
Night Training
Night training has been introduced into the SARDA training regime and all teams are working through these elements accurately and efficiently.

Resilient Australia Awards

In September 2015 SARDA was nominated for the Resilient Australia Awards after the completion of their Canine Search Specialist Training Course in November 2014 via the National Disaster Resilient Fund where two FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) – USA trainers and handlers conducted the CSST course at the Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre-Craigieburn.
SARDA members Julie Cowan, Tracy Edwards and Anne Forwood attended this presentation with SARDA Patron Craig Lapsley –PSM-Emergency Services Commissioner conducting these awards. We felt it a privilege to stand alongside many other volunteer organisation that represented hardworking organisations. Congratulations to all winners.


2016 is the year for moving forward alongside all Emergency Service Agencies with Cat 1 and 48 hour training exercises diarised between May and November.  The annual  workshop to Aradale Asylum is again being conducted on June long weekend and this year there will be quite a number of attendees as SARDA Queensland is making the trip down for the workshop.


SARDA welcomed 3 new members this year and look forward to them progressing with their puppies on their way to operational status.

MAY 2015

Nearly half the year has passed and SARDA members are stepping up, especially the teams who are training toward Foundation Skills Assessment level. Four teams are working hard to gain this accreditation and the operational teams are maintain their status as operational and will be FSA tested around August. 

January-February-March has been busy with the younger teams training all through the Christmas break with the operational teams given their well earned rest period. The four younger teams are leaping ahead with their training which only reflects on the skill and dedication required to progress

In April, SARDA hosted Queensland members for a 4 day workshop which proved to be very valuable for members.

SARDA was invited as guest speaker at a luncheon hosted by Hon. David Hodgetts MP at Club Kilsyth on April 24th. As a result of the presentation (plus canine present) SARDA was the recipient of a very generous donation from attendees and thanked David Hodgetts most sincerely for the invitation.

SARDA was invited to participate in the annual Dog Lovers Show at the Exhibition Building from May 1st – 3rd. A scent discrimination display and “pat-a-pooch” supplied the attendees with an insight to the capability of a beginner to operational level of a search & rescue dog.

May 5th-8th, Julie Cowan was invited to present K9 Usar at the annual Australian and New Zealand Search & Rescue Conference at Jupiters Casino – Gold Coast Queensland. This is the first time K9 Usar has been incorporated into the program and gave attendees an insight into the development of a National Data Base and the capability of the trained urban search & rescue canine.

Frankston SES invited SARDA to attend their weekly meeting and we were asked to give a detailed description of the capability, followed by a demonstration. The evening was successful and will lead to more collaboration between the two units.

Essendon SES also invited SARDA to attend a weekly meeting earlier in the year and the result of this meeting was a planned combined mock search on June 15th 2015.

SARDA would like to thank the following for their cooperation in allowing our teams access to their sites for various training:-


  • Lord Somers Camp – Somers
  • Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Management
  • Alex Fraser Group sites at Laverton North, Epping & Clarinda
  • CFA Dandenong ( confined space training) and CFA Springvale (Project Management Meetings)
  • Department of Education Emergency Management – access to closed and occupied schools .
  • Victoria University-access to various buildings-some unoccupied.
  • Melbourne University – access to occupied buildings
  • Shell/Mobil for their continued support-element training at Crib Point site.
  • NMIT for their continued support in allowing our teams to train at the closed Aradale Lunatic Asylum in June long weekend annually. This is a weekend that depicts a deployment from arrival to departure.



This year has been quite a memorable time for SARDA. All members have put in a 100% effort to maintain their training throughout the year.
The announcement in May that SARDA was successful in their application to the Federal Government Natural Disaster Resilience Fund put everyone into action to produce the inaugural National Canine Search Specialist Training Workshop in November.
SARDA's Patron, Craig Lapsley Emergency Service Commissioner, was instrumental in gaining the newly established Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre-Craigieburn as the venue for this CSST workshop.

Canidae Development (Luke & Tracy Edwards) were contracted as Project Management and in turn, produced a very highly skilled course for all attendees. Two of the most highly skilled FEMA (USA) Usar instructors, Teresa MacPherson, FEMA Instructor from Virginia TaskForce1 and Deborah Burnett - FEMA Instructor from Tennessee TaskForce 1 were contracted to deliver the FEMA Canine Search Specialist Training Course. The 5-day course was absolutely fantastic and pushed the handlers and their dogs to another level and everyone took home with them more international credentials with being presented the SARDA Canine Search Specialist Accreditation.

Thank you to all SARDA members who assisted in every way to produce this workshop, thank you to VEMTC Management for their awesome assistance and thank you to all SES volunteers who came along for the week and acted as victims, hiding in some gregarious places. SARDA will continue producing follow up for this CSST course.

During August 2014, SARDA had the pleasure of hosting Snr Sgt Shaun McGovern, Sgt. Claude Silinzieds (Vic Police Dog Squad) and Cmdr Gary Mann, (MFB Usar ) at various Usar training sites to view the SARDA canine teams and their capability. In October SARDA hosted Australian Best Practice Guidelne Assessments, with assessors SnrSgt Shaun McGovern & Sgt Claude Silinzieds as Lead Assessors. Five canine teams applied to sit these assessments and all teams passed with a very high quality rating. Those teams are;
Zelda Calitz - Callum, Tracy Edwards - Beathan (re-accreditation, Dee Winters-Grip and Julie Cowan with Will-re-accreditation and Tank. All of the above teams are on standby with the NSW Fire & Rescue Taskforce 1 when they are on national and international rotation with Qld Fire & Emergency Service.

SARDA is also pleased that Zelda Calitz with Callum have gained their certification to allow in-cabin flight travel for Callum. Zelda has gained her assessor qualification which will assist all SARDA members gaining this status for in-flight travel for their Usar operational canines.

Thank you to all members for their invaluable input this year to make it the year of achievement and look forward to 2015 producing all the younger canines who are coming through their progress check assessments and gaining their operational status.

Thank you to Alex Fraser Group for providing training and assessment sites, Commercial Sands for also allowing rubble and timber training at their site and to NMIT for their assistance in gaining access to Government buildings for "building" training purposes. Thank you to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council for their support in again awarding SARDA a volunteer grant to provide more technical equipment for our ongoing administration, ie; IPad, 6 new radios, upgrade first aid equipment, more helmets & vests.

Pics of the CSST course are sanctioned by MFB and are on their way.

Happy and safe holiday to all.



Search & Rescue Dogs Australia Inc. (SARDA) is proud to present the inaugural “Canine Search Specialist Course”, funded by the Federal Government’s Natural Disaster Resilience Grants Scheme.

The USA Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accredited Instructors, Ms. Teresa Macpherson and Ms Deborah Burnett , will be delivering the FEMA certified course from November 16th to the 20th inclusive,  at the new Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre, Craigieburn, Victoria.

There are very limited spaces available for USAR search dog teams from across Australia to gain this international knowledge and experience and the Canine Search Specialist credentials. All search dog teams applying must be affiliated with their local state emergency agencies.

If you would like to apply to participate in this course, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. requesting an expression of interest form.  Please note that there are fees for this course, whether you want to attend as an observer or canine team (dog and handler).

SARDA is excited to host the course to continue building Australia’s Search and Rescue Canine Specialist capability and knowledge.

JUNE 2014

The past few months have been really busy for the SARDA Vic handlers as well as the SARDA Qld handlers with new members coming into the system.


The Easter break workshop was very important with venues and rubble sites, thank you to RedHill Consolidated School, Somers Camp and Alex Fraser Group for all their assistance in providing training sites for the 4-day workshop.  Melody Callahan and Mariska Herbert travelled down from Queensland QFES with their dogs Squizz, Bill and Tui.  Great training and learning was had by all.

SARDA Progress Check Test system is assisting with accreditation towards Foundation Skills Assessment with Operational status to follow.  More assessments are to be held in July/August.

SARDA Vic annual Queens Birthday long weekend was another excellent venue to sharpen the skills of both handlers and dogs with such an amazing place to train and we would like to thank NMIT for their assistance with these sites. 



SARDA would like to THANK the following companies and organsations for their generous sponsorship:

Gary Watson Family Company -                    monetary donation

Galvin Rowley Corporation      -                    monetary donation

Mornington Peninsula Shire Volunteer Grant - monetary  - for more equipment

Steel Blue Footwear -                                   supply of new Steel Blue "Canberra" boots to all handlers

Uniden Corporation-                                     generous supply of more radios for the teams.

Alex Fraser Group -                                      their ongoing support of SARDA by supplying excellent training Usar props when requested.


"STAY TUNED" for more upcoming news that will be a huge step in the right direction of the acknowledgement of Usar K9 in Australia.



APRIL 2014

The year is quickly passing by and SARDA has commenced the year with new training sites and new members.  All teams have been waiting to get back to training as the weather has now become cooler after the longest, hottest summer we have endured for many years.


SARDA would like to endorse Queensland Fire & Emergency TaskForce's appreciation to SARDA Qld Members Melody Callahan & K9 "Squizz"  on their deployment to Far North Queensland based in Cairns, prior to the Cyclone Ita who hit the coast on Friday evening. 




SARDA is conducting quite a few workshops this year including FSA assessment and Operational assessments.  We are negotiating with Overseas Trainers to come to Australia this year to conduct Usar workshops and will be available for our Assessment program.


SARDA is conducting an Easter workshop for Victorian members and also Queensland members all travelling to participate.  A huge thank you must go in advance to those companies and government agencies who have made awesome training sites available for this workshop.  We will be including building search training at two government building sites and USAR/rubble training at Alex Fraser Group/Clarinda who are assisting SARDA in designing hides for the workshop.  Thank you to Simon and his team for their expert assistance.  


JUNE WORKSHOP:   NMIT Aradale - Ararat


JULY/AUGUST :       Assessments/workshop with International Assessors/trainers


SEPTEMBER:           USAR/LANDSAR workshop




“SARDA is delighted to announce that Mr Craig Lapsley, PSM, Fire Services Commissioner  for Victoria, has accepted SARDA’s invitation to become its Patron. Mr Lapsley brings with him extensive experience and a unique perspective gained through a long and distinguished career in the emergency management sector.”




SARDA members have been working hard over the past few months, training at different sites around the state. July 6th & 7th SARDA attended a 2-day workshop hosted by Canidae Development at Port Campbell. Luke & Tracy Edwards of Canidae Development, organised the training on both days with Saturday training being held at Camp Coorimungle – who also provided

Hon.Dan Tehan-Member for Wannon attended the Saturday training of combined urban search, land search, agility and scent discrimination. Thank you Dan Tehan for your valuable input and support and we look forward to the future with your direction and advice. Sunday July 7th saw the teams travel into Port Campbell to attend a vertical lift workshop.

Port Campbell SES were the instructors with SES Acting Unit Controller Luke Edwards as canine instructor. Thank you SES for your valuable input and the dogs had a fine time with the vertical lifts. ALEX FRASER GROUP continue to support the SARDA teams by providing rubble sites at Laverton North and Clarinda. We sincerely appreciate their contribution and support especially for Assessments which do take time and organisation. CFA-Huntly Campus also provides support and training sites and we sincerely appreciate the efforts of Frank Beukelman and Andrew Purdy for their ongoing support and providing training sites; Mine rescue, Confined space rescue & rubble prop.

FUNDRAISING SARDA members conducted a Sausage Sizzle on July 13th and we would like to thank Bunnings Mornington for their constant support to volunteer organisations with their fundraising. Julie Cowan, Pat Richardson with canines River & Tank regularly attend guest speaking invitations from Rye on the Mornington Peninsula to Boronia in South East Melbourne suburbs.

Thank you to all the Probus, CWA, Rotary , National Seniors and other groups who support SARDA. NEW MEMBERS SARDA has gained new members in Queensland and Victoria and we would like to wish them every success with training and deployment. Two Qld members are travelling to Victoria for a Usar workshop in November and look forward to a great weekend of training at various sites.

JUNE 2013

The past few months have been so busy for SARDA teams with Operational Assessments and Progress Check Tests being carried out every four weeks.

In May, 2013, two Operational teams; Julie Cowan and her Operational Usar K9 "Will" and Tracy Edwards and her Operational Usar K9 "Beathan" were both re-tested for their re-accreditation status.  Both teams passed and are now listed as Operational for deployment for the next two years.

SARDA would like to again thank Alex Fraser Group for their assistance in providing their site and construct an operational Usar prop for the Assessments, without this cooperation the above accreditations would not be carried out. 

Over the recent Queens Birthday holiday, SARDA conducted a Usar (building) workshop at Aradale Lunatic Asylum at Ararat in country Victoria and once again the workshop participants worked extremely hard and pushed themselves and their dogs into areas that required great skill & knowledge. 

A HUGE thank you to trainers; Andrew Cowan, Jeff Smith & Luke Edwards and to all those voluteers who were put into some very 'interesting' places to hide (in the dark) and carried out their skills with integrity and gusto.  Once you have been a victim you really appreciate the skill and stamina required to work your canine and we certainly appreciate those who came to the workshop just to victim.

Please refer to SARDA facebook page for photos to come;

The next six months will be extremely busy with another Victoria SAR combined workshop in four weeks and a scheduled NATIONAL workshop later in the year, stay tuned;

MARCH 2013


SARDA would like to announce a mutual partnership agreement with Alex Fraser Group Recycling Victoria who will supply SARDA Usar K9 teams with varied Usar rubble props at their sites in and around Melbourne Metropolitan areas and outer Melbourne.

SARDA has had the use of a purpose built site at their Laverton North site in 2012 courtesy of Malcolm Kay - HSSE Manager and site manager for their assistance in 2012 and now at their Clarinda site in 2013. 

We would like to thank Simon Hoy - Site Manager at Clarinda and prop builder Adrian for their support and forsight into helping our teams create an operational status by building replicas of disaster sites that we may encounter on deployment.

We look forward to accessing these sites for training and workshops in 2013 and beyond. Please checkout our facebook page with pics of our K9 teams working these sites;

SARDA has commenced 2013 with new agility equipment and scent discrimination props to assist the K9 teams to be as efficient as required for operational status and deployment.  The different props made available to SARDA teams, has made the enthusiasm of dogs and handlers increase and the challenge has created a more efficient outcome.

2013 is going to be a very busy year for SARDA, with three workshops planned, FSA, Basic & Advanced Assessments in the calendar plus a National workshop planned for October.


SARDA would like to welcome 4 new members in 2013 and wish them all the best for their future with our team.



SARDA was invited to the Boronia Rotary Club Annual Dinner along with Inner Wheel Club of Boronia as guest speaker last night (Tuesday January 29th, 2013).

The presentation went really well with our DVD plus "River" strutting his stuff (in semi-retirement). The audience of around 80-90 attendees were extremely receptive of the hard work the SARDA volunteers and their dedication to produce trained search & rescue dogs, so much so that they raised an enormous amount on the night and SARDA is now the recipients of funds raised at their Annual Golf Day in February and other fundraising days on their 2012 calendar. THANK YOU SO MUCH BORONIA ROTARY CLUB & INNER WHEEL CLUB OF BORONIA, so appreciative of your support.






Sarda would like to extend warm wishes to all Canine Teams both Nationally and Internationally for a very safe and happy 2013.

In December, Julie Cowan returned from successfully completing the TEEX Canine Search Specialist and Canine Search Manager's Course as detailed below.  A big thankyou to the sponsors who supported this trip.


SARDA will re-commence training on February 16th, and the 2013 training calendar is currently being processed. It looks like a VERY busy year with 3 workshops, assessments and training camps to country Victoria for both building and rubble training, and again thanking all those companies and organisations who so generously allow our canine teams access to these sites and are always on hand to help if necessary.

Again, many thanks to EAGLE PACK for their continued support in providing their top quality working dog food to our dog teams-this is such a huge assistance to the handlers. 

Other corporate supporters are;

  • Bayside Community Dog Training School;
  • Frankston Heights Veterinary Centre;
  • Bayer Australia
  • Country Fire Authority - Metro & Mornington
  • Melbourne Metro Fire Brigade (Usar)
  • Shire of Cardinia
  • Highmark Footwear - Thaipan Footwear
  • Mt. Martha CFA
  • Mt. Eliza Secondary College



Sarda has now entered the rest period for dogs and handlers.  At our breakup breakfast recently, with all good breakfast food cooked for handlers (and small amount for the dogs, all handlers reflected on the positive achievements during the year.  We welcomed new members and their dogs and all look forward to a great 2013 training schedule ahead. 


Thank you to all those who assisted during the year from coming to training sites to be victims; all those companies who assisted in supplying new training rubble sites and building sites; all those who assisted in fundraising during the year. 


Another BIG THANK YOU to Eagle Pack for their support over the year in supplying *Eagle Pack Adult Performance Dog Food and also the *Eagle Pack Puppy Nutrition for the new puppies in the team.


With the support of fundraising and sponsorship, Julie Cowan is attending a Canine Search Specialist Course at College Station, Texas for the next two weeks.

Thank you to those who worked hard to fund this excellent opportunity for added knowledge and strategy to apply to Australian Urban Search Dog Teams.




SARDA has completed another combined Usar training weekend with South West Victorian Dogs.  Sarda is enjoying the assistance given by companies that

allow the dog teams to utilise their rubble sites for all training scenarios and again we thank them for their contribution in allowing us access at weekends to use their sites.

Here is a few photos taken last weekend;



Sarda representative Julie Cowan was invited to attend Sunrise Business Brekky Session at "Lindenderry at Red Hill" on Friday November 16th, 2012.

Thank you to Veronica and her team for the invitation and 'yummy' breakfast put on by Lindenderry and getting the word out about our constant ability to train our dogs to operational status without any support from Government really surprised the corporate guests attending.


Thank you to Bunnings Warehouse Frankston for their kind donation of a Gazebo for the team - great for our hotter weather training sites. This was as a result from SARDA attending the Emergency Service Expo at Bunnings Frankston in October, 2012.


SARDA has been asked to attend various functions and meetings as guest speaker to promote the dog teams in their endeavour to have operational status for future deployment for all emergency service agencies.  These organsations frequently donate money that is collected to assist our teams.


Because we do not get any Government funding, most of the training expenses are borne by the handlers themselves but with the generous sponsorship from EaglePack, HighMark Footwear, Mornington Peninsula Shire and other small businesses, we can alleviate some of the cost.  Insurance and training ground costs are also an added expense.


The end of the training year is coming quickly as the summer months are way too hot to train plus the snake population is out and about. We have a well earned summer break to 'recharge our batteries'.


The SARDA breakup is on December 1st, with all members attending an early BBQ breakfast plus fun activities and reflect on the year, it is always a great morning. Obviously pics will be put up on the site.


Julie Cowan is attending a Usar Canine Search Specialist Course at Disaster City -Bryan College Station in Texas from December 7th until December 17th.  Unfortunately due to the constraints of quarantine etc and cost, Julie is not taking a dog.  Two SES members from NSW are also attending this course. 


Thankyou to TEEX Urban Search & Rescue Division for their support and also SARDA members for their fundraising to assist the cost of the course.


Thank you to CFA Usar for their contribution in organising excellent rubble training sites for the teams and look forward to utilising these facilities and thank you to the Companies supplying these sites and their cooperation as well, to provide different Usar props/rubble sites.

October 2012

Sarda members have been busy with both training and weekends where we are required to attend Emergency Service Expo's. 


SARDA, along with other Emergency Service Agencies - CFA, SES, CoastGuard and other agencies attended two day expo at Bunnings Frankston.  This gives the public an opportunity to meet and greet all agencies and view what they are required to do if there is a community emergency. 

SARDA dogs gave a demonstration in the CFA smoke room set-up and also locating and alerting to a child hidden in the carpark in a trailer.  This is extremely hard for the dogs given the crowds of people in attendance and defining an individual scent.  All went well and the dogs found quickly and efficiently in both areas.  We would like to thank Bunnings Frankston for their generous donation of a Gazebo to SARDA for shade for the dogs and handlers during adverse weather... as seen in the photos in gallery.

Both Basic and Advanced Assessments are going to be held later in the year as we have to obtain clearance for the Usar site earmarked for Usar Assessment purposes.


SARDA member Andy Liberts is currently recovering from surgery and we wish him all the best that life has to offer on a speedy recovery and will be welcomed back to the team as early as he feels he is able.  Andy has been a longstanding SARDA member (14 years) and is always available to victim every weekend.