In 1999, when the world was shocked by the 921 earthquake in Taiwan, 40 members of the Turkish Search and Rescue Team with 3 dogs were the first to arrive in Taiwan. On 6 February 2023, when a severe earthquake killed over 20,000 people in Türkiye, Taiwan sent a huge team of 130 people and 5 dogs to the disaster area in Türkiye. What few people know is that it was only after the 921 earthquake, when officials and the public witnessed the heroic rescue efforts of search and rescue dogs, that the dogs were given the opportunity to become a part of the army.
In 2000, Taiwan passed the Disaster Prevention and Rescue Act, and the Fire ServicesDepartment established a specialised search and rescue team in 2002. At present, the bureau in 10 of the 22 counties and cities, including Taipei, New Taipei and Taoyuan, are equipped with search and rescue dogs.
In 2019, Taiwan was the first to make a big splash, as only 9 dogs in Asia have been certified by the United Nations, but 7 of them are in Taiwan! By March 2022, Taiwan will have 18 Class A SAR dogs and 12 Class B SAR dogs certified by the International Rescue Dog Organization (IRO).
The young SATO was one of the first three dogs to arrive at the disaster area and became the focus of the media as he was the first to dive into the broken wall to look for survivors. The five dogs were accompanied by a veterinary surgeon who was able to check their health at any time, which was particularly encouraging for the people of Taiwan.
In March 2018, the Search and Rescue Dog Team asked the World Dog Alliance (WDA) for help because the government had not allocated funds for the repair of the base’s kennels and he was fearing that the upcoming heavy rainy season would cause the kennels to flood again, leaving all the dogs underwater. When the project was completed, the problem that had plagued the dogs for eight years was finally solved.
The WDA believes that the courageous rescue dogs embody the nature of dogs that love and trust people.