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ARDA History

Founded in 1972

The American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA), the nation's oldest air-scenting search dog organization, was founded in 1972 by Bill and Jean Syrotuck. The ARDA "concept" was a result of the Syrotuck's desire to provide the public with competent well-trained search and rescue personnel and canines. To achieve this goal, the Syrotuck's formed the American Rescue Dog Association by organizing various state rescue dog associations from across the nation in order to share training techniques, develop, uniform standards, and create a national alerting system for major emergencies.


ARDA standards and training methods have served as the model for canine search and rescue units across the nation and around the world. Some of ARDA's accomplishments include:

  • The development of standards and training methods for the air-scenting search dog.
  • The development of a national evaluation system for member units.
  • Pioneering research on scent behavior and how it relates to different terrain and weather conditions.
  • The first use of American trained search dogs to locate avalanche victims (SARDA, ARDA-WA, 1969).
  • The first use of American trained search dogs to locate victims of a major disaster (Ramapo, ARDA-NJ, Johnstown Floods, 1977)
  • The development of training methods for the use of air-scenting search dogs in water recovery (VSRDA, ARDA-VA, 1979).
  • Development of the "sector search" method, a search technique that involves using multiple dog/handler teams simultaneously to cover a given area.
  • Compilation of the first study of victim behavior - now used in search management courses world-wide.

Notable Missions

ARDA Members and their canines have been involved in some of the following missions. Please note, in some of the following missions, ARDA handlers responded as members of a FEMA Task Force or state (USAR) urban search and rescue team.

  • September 2019 - Hurricane Dorian
  • September 2017 - Hurricane Maria
  • September 2017 - Hurricane Irma
  • October 2016 - Hurricane Matthew
  • October 2015 - Hurricane Joaquin
  • April 2015 - Nepal Earthquake
  • April 2014 - Oso, Washington Mud Slides
  • March 2011 - Earthquake & Tsumani in Japan
  • January 2010 - Earthquake in Haiti
  • September 2008 - Hurricane Ike
  • September 2005 - Hurricane Rita
  • August 2005 - Hurricane Katrina
  • February 2003 - Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster
  • September 11, 2001 - World Trade Center Attacks (Rescue and Recovery)
  • September 11, 2001 - Pentagon Attacks (Rescue and Recovery)
  • September 11, 2001 - Shanksville, Pennsylvania (Recovery)
  • October 1999 - Earthquake, Duzce, Turkey
  • September 1999 - Earthquake, Touliu, Taiwan
  • August 1999 - Earthquake in Izmit, Turkey
  • August 1998 - Embassy Bombing, Nairobi, Kenya
  • April 1995 - Oklahoma City Bombing (Rescue and Recovery)

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