SAPS K9 unit’s courageous hunt for living and dead both internationally and locally

The K9 unit at the scene of the George building collapse. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

The K9 unit at the scene of the George building collapse. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published May 19, 2024


Cape Town - The police’s search and rescue K9 deployments include nearly 10 life saving operations from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the 2019 cyclone in Zimbabwe to a missing persons case in the Seychelles and the 2023 earthquake in Türkiye.

The K9 unit of the police together with the Gift of the Givers and volunteers and the Rescue Association of South Africa (Sara) were on site of the George building collapse in Victoria Street where 65 people had been present at the time of the tragedy on May 6.

The death toll has since risen to 33.

According to an internal report shared with the Weekend Argus, the police’s K9 unit have been deployed to horrific disasters where they have saved lives.

The first was in 2010 in Haiti where three dogs were deployed at an earthquake site.

In 2012, four dogs were sent to the Republic of Congo where search and rescue operations were to find those alive and dead after an explosion scene at a military camp of in the suburb of Mpila in Brazzaville.

In 2014, the dogs and their handlers were needed in Tanzania to search for a missing person at Tanzania’s African Barrick Gold mine.

In 2017, the dogs were deployed to the Seychelles for a search and rescue mission for a missing person.

In Swaziland in 2017 and 2018 the team’s biological body fluid detection dogs were tasked to search for a missing person during a criminal investigation which involved a kidnapping.

Gift of the Givers leads a dog at the George building disaster. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

DDuring the 2019 Zimbabwe floods and cyclone the heroic dogs saved many lives.

They were also part of the search for a herd-boy’s body in 2021 which vanished in a landslide.

Most recently, the Türkiye Earthquake of February 2023 made international headlines. Veteran police officer Brigadier Vilma Moodley the Provincial Head of the Eastern Cape Police Emergency Services and her team was dispatched with five canines and their handlers.

Moodley, who is the national head of the police’s K9 unit, received top honours at the police’s Excellence Awards last year on behalf of her team.

The police’s K9 unit during their time at the Turkey Earthquake search and rescue. supplied pic
The dog of the K9 unite which found the 80-year-old woman underneath the rubble at the earthquake site in Turkey in 2023. supplied pic.

The dogs made a breakthrough regarded as a miracle when they saved an 80-year-old woman who had been buried under the rubble.

Mario Ferreria of Gift of the Givers confirmed four Belgian Shepherds were on site until the rescue was called off yesterday.

Police did not respond to further queries about their dogs.

Jason Kleindsmidt who had been deployed by the Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety in George said he witnessed how volunteers dogs were also used during operations and was amazed at their bravery and skill: “Private owners were on scene and layers of the concrete would be removed for the dogs to sniff there and see if there is any bodies or people still alive.

“We are part of the security support team,” he said.

Weekend Argus