NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) — On Sunday, the Newton Falls Joint Fire District partnered with the Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue Team for live-action training.
The team is based out of Trumbull County but works throughout Ohio and neighboring states. They do land and water searches for missing people and help recover bodies.
Becky Saltzmann, founder and team leader, also partners with fire and police departments in addition to the community.
She said they look for dogs that have a work ethic.
“Most of the dogs are going to be dogs that individuals don’t want to have in their home. They’re high energy, high drive — they want to work, they want to play. They don’t sit down. They’re constantly in motion,” Saltzmann said.
Saltzmann began training her first dog in the program, a beagle named Katelynn, when she was 10 months old. It’s what inspired her to start the search team and six years later, she has 11 K-9s and 11 volunteers.
The K-9 team is made up of a few breeds including malinois, shepherd mixes, beagles and even a Lagotto — a breed of dog traditionally trained to hunt truffles.
“If we have a lost kid or a senior citizen who is confused or something like that and they wander off and get lost — even half a day later or longer, dogs are able to find them, where we can’t smell that,” said Newton Falls fire Lieutenant Ben Kittle.
Kittle is the training officer for the fire district, and said the trainings teach the firefighters how to work with the K-9s.
“We invited them out so we can see how they operate, what we need to do to be able to help them operate and gets them training that they do routinely as well with their K-9s,” Kittle said.
The dogs go through a year and a half to two years of training to get certified and must re-certify every two years.
Each week, they spend about 10 hours in training searches. Saltzmann said they do all this work for free.