In 1987, AMTRAK had a major accident in Chase, MD. Several people died because they were not discovered quickly. It was theorized by the Baltimore County Fire Department that dogs with the ability to detect human scent could have saved lives in that accident.
In 1990, the Baltimore County Fire Department adopted a K9 search dog program. Four handlers were identified from Baltimore County’s Advanced Tactical Rescue (ATR) Team and 2 dogs were procured and began training in Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) with wilderness capability.
In 1997, the Baltimore County Fire Department reviewed the entire search dog program and the program was eliminated in the reorganization of the ATR Team. The handlers and dogs from the Baltimore County Fire Department formed the non-profit organization, Chesapeake Search and Rescue Dog Association (CHESARDA).
In our first full year, the team responded to only four searches. Since 1998, the number of requests has grown to an average of 40 searches per year for multiple jurisdictions and agencies in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
In September of 2001, our team had the honor of being called upon to serve at the Pentagon after the attacks on September 11th. Chesapeake Search Dogs, among other dog teams, was asked to assist the FBI in recovering the human remains of those who perished in that attack. Those who did perish from this tragic and brutal attack remain on our minds and in our hearts.