The Search and Rescue Dog Foundation, Inc. was hatched in the aftermath of 9/11, as the brainchild of heroic volunteer Sarah Atlas.

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Atlas is a K-9 handler from South Jersey and member of the New Jersey Task Force 1, which provides emergency rescue response to victims trapped in structurally collapsed building. She was part of a team that rushed to Ground Zero, and stayed there for 10 days to help rescue people trapped in the ruins of Lower Manhattan.

Sarah's search and rescue dog, Anna, became ill after that mission. However, money was raised to help purchase a new partner for Atlas named Tango. The generosity inspired her to launch the Search and Rescue Dog Foundation in 2005.

"My foundation is the only foundation in the United States that is looking out for the civilian volunteers," Atlas says.

The issue is one that falls in the categories of under the radar and thankless works. Volunteers, such as Sarah, devote their time, money, safety, and resources to essentially be on call in the time of chaos and urgency, like on 9/11 or during a major storm or parking garage collapse.

"The volunteer civilian handlers supply their own dogs, are responsible for their own training expenses," Atlas said.

Another obstacle is the lack of information and awareness out there on just what these volunteers do, how the process works, and where the dogs come from.

Her charity aims to raise money for grants that go towards the purchase of a new K-9 for these volunteers, when their current dog can no longer perform his search and rescue duties.

The undertaking for a volunteer is extensive, as dogs can run from anywhere from $1500-$6000, and training expenses push to near $10,000.

"These dogs are parts of our families, they are with us round the clock," she explains, "We're ready to assist people at their greatest time of need."

Sarah's charity, despite having limited resources, and basically being run from her own kitchen table, has made a small impact in a short-time.

"We are a very small grass-roots operation. There's no paid salaries," she said, "We've provided 14 handlers with the grant money towards the purchase of dogs."

The Camden-County charity is constantly looking for volunteers and donations to help address this growing need. You can learn more about the organization and how you can help by visiting their website and Facebook page.


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