The ZAKA K9 Unit includes trained dog-handlers and hand-picked search dogs who all undergo complex training. The K9 Unit operates around the country, assisting in dozens of search operations, including searching for senior citizens, Alzheimer sufferers and people with suicidal tendencies who have gone missing. The unit, which carries out joint exercises with the IDF’s elite Oketz K9 unit, is ready to join a search and rescue mission anywhere in the country.
A search and rescue dog can identify the scent of a person in distress or a dead person (up to 48 hours after death) from a considerable distance. The dog handler leads the dog against the wind that carries scents undetected by man. The dog can distinguish between the scent emitted by someone stationary (the missing person) and that of someone moving (the search team), even at night and if the person is camouflaged or hidden. As soon as the dog identifies the scent, he will lead the dog handler to its source, sit down and bark.
The dogs are brought to the scene of the search in real time, and released in the area to search, with the dog handler in pursuit, noting the path taken by the dog. The dogs are capable of locating a dead body in just five minutes in a500 square meterarea, even if this is a stony and difficult terrain that is not reachable by the search team.
Integrating At-Risk Youth in the ZAKA K9 Unit
It is not for nothing that dogs are termed “man’s best friend”. Many studies have testified to the social, psychological, and physical advantages of raising dogs. A study that examined the effects of owning pets on aggressiveness among adolescents living in institutions, found that the group treated with pet assisted therapy was significantly less aggressive than the other groups.
Thanks to the success and achievements of the ZAKA K9 Unit, the organization decided to train additional dogs and handlers. Therefore, ZAKA is carrying out the first project of its kind in Israel, to integrate at-risk youth into the ZAKA K9 Unit. The students receive professional training as search and rescue dog handlers and receive authorized certification. The at-risk teenagers who excel in the course are eventually integrated in practical work in the ZAKA K9 Unit, thereby allowing at-risk youth to also contribute to the community.