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Star dog joins Inland Search and Rescue team 21 November 2007

THE Isle of Man Inland Search and Rescue team has a new member.

Search dog Star and Jim MacGregor Two-year-old collie ‘Star’, trained by Isle of Man Civil Defence volunteer training officer Jim MacGregor, has qualified as a novice lowland search dog, following a weekend of assessments by the Search and Rescue Dogs organisation in Wales.

Jim, a geography teacher at St Ninian’s High School, Douglas, started training Star when she was a 12 week old puppy. He explained:

‘The training is very play-driven, incorporating finding people using a scent for the reward of a toy. Star can now work in any location – mountain, coastal, woodland or parkland – anywhere on the Isle of Man.’ Star’s assessment involved three tests over two days. Each time she had to find a ‘body’ in a different location.
‘She’s now suitable to work on all Isle of Man terrain and will be reassessed in a year’s time,’ Jim went on. ‘What makes her technique different from other dogs is the way she indicates a find – she’ll go to the body, shuttling between me and the find until she gets us together.’

Star is IOM Inland Search and Rescue’s second qualified search dog joining Lola, trained by former Coastguard volunteer Matt Creer who recently took up a post with IOM Constabulary.

The Island’s Emergency Planning Officer Martin Blackburn, Head of the IoM Civil Defence, commented:

‘Search and Rescue dogs are a very useful asset to the emergency services. They can cover a lot of ground very quickly and there have been numerous occasions when search dogs have saved the lives of casualties in the UK.
‘Jim has been a very dedicated member of the Civil Defence volunteers and has made a great personal contribution in terms of the time and money he has spent to get Star to this standard. We are also grateful to the IoM Steam Packet Company, which assisted Jim and Star to travel to Wales for training and assessments, St Ninian’s High School for its assistance and understanding, and to Jim’s team of volunteer ‘dog’s bodies’ who are essential for her training.’

The Isle of Man Civil Defence currently has 45 volunteers who train weekly to ensure the Island community has assistance to deal with major incidents ranging from a chemical or biological threat to floods and storm damage. They also undertake searches for missing persons including hill search and rescue.

For more information on the Island’s search and rescue dogs visit the website: www.sardaiom.org.

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