Professional search and rescue (SAR) dogs, who are members of urban search and rescue teams and have undergone rigorous training, play a crucial role in locating buried or missing persons in various disasters due to their sharp sense of smell. Hazards such as chemical leaks, pathogenic microorganisms, toxins, vectors, and radioactive materials may occur in the environment as a result of a large-scale disaster. SAR dogs operate without the personal protective equipment used by responders, and therefore the risk of exposure to chemical, biological and radioactive hazards at the scene increases. There are limited resources in the literature on chemical, biological and radioactive hazards and risks that SAR dogs may encounter in the disaster area. Information obtained suggests that SAR dogs can be adversely affected by toxic agents and chemical substances such as hydrocarbons, acids, alkalis, glycols, phenols, solvents, asbestos, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen chloride, chlorine, and fluorine. Protozoal or bacterial organisms such as Giardia sp, Leptospira spp, coliform bacteria as biological hazards, and radioactive material ingestion and radioactive dust inhalation risk as a radiological hazard. Exposure of SAR dogs to chemical, biological and, radioactive hazards should be reduced and appropriate decontamination procedures should be applied for possible exposures.
Sevil Cengiz is an Assistant Professor at Gumushane University in Turkey.