Colorado Launches New Co-Op for Streamlining K9 Resources

Jay Christianson


Colorado has recently launched a statewide coordination effort to streamline Search and Rescue K9 operations. Per Colorado statute, the Sheriff of each county is responsible for search and rescue operations. However, the Sheriff’s Departments in most counties have delegated that responsibility to local non-profit organizations to run these operations, a system similar to those operating in many other states. 

Unlike in some other states, there is a separate nonprofit organization, the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR), that is not affiliated with any county. Its purpose is to coordinate mutual aid operations on a large scale. However, over time, it has become clear that there are challenges in finding appropriate resources for missions that involve K9s. In Colorado, there are at least ten different certification pathways and standards used by handlers for K9s. This variety of certifications presents difficulties for CSAR coordinators when attempting to find resources for unique terrain challenges found in Colorado. For instance, who should they call for a K9/Handler team to work above treeline in the snow?

The Colorado K9 Co-Op was created to solve this problem. While CSAR is the standard resource for calling and coordinating mutual aid resources, they are not experts in K9. Through diligent research and work, the Colorado K9 Co-Op developed a tiering system for K9 resources in Colorado that synthesizes the multitude of certifying body standards into tiers of application for the mission problems that are typically faced in Colorado SAR.

Here’s what makes the Colorado’s Co-Op groundbreaking:

  • Unified Communication: A standardized typing system ensures clear communication regarding the capabilities of available K9 teams.
  • One-Stop Shop: Rescue managers can quickly request the most suitable K9 resources for their specific needs, eliminating the need to search through various channels.
  • Task Force Approach: Multiple specialized K9 teams (trailing, area search, human remains detection) are deployed together for a more comprehensive search, maximizing efficiency and success rates.
  • Real-Time Tracking: Enhanced dispatch systems provide crucial information on resource availability and allow live tracking of deployed teams.
  • Extensive Network: The Co-Op boasts a comprehensive network that encompasses a staggering 95% of all search and rescue canine resources in the state.

This joint effort marks a significant advancement in search and rescue operations in Colorado. By promptly ensuring that the most suitable dog for the task is dispatched to the search area, the Co-Op aims to significantly enhance the prospects of a successful rescue.

As far as the author knows, this is the only such system in the United States, which is quite exciting overall.

Jay is the President of and a Field Team Leader for El Paso County Search and Rescue, a fully-accredited Mountain Rescue Association group serving the needs of lost, injured, and stranded people in El Paso County, Colorado. He is the primary handler of Saxby, an HRD Land/Water, Area I, Trailing III, and Article Search certified K9.
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