Our Origin – The Search and Rescue Dog Association

It is less than forty years since the ideas of SARDA, the Search and Rescue Dog Association was born, and only a few years since an awareness of the work of Mountain Rescue Search Dogs began to filter through to the general public.

Many people in Britain know little of the work of SARDA, and may never have heard of search dogs. Yet winter and summer, search dogs and their handlers work in wild areas of Britain, searching for lost or injured people, working as part of Search and Rescue Groups.

The origins of SARDA owe a great deal to one man, Hamish MacInnes, who, as leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, was invited by the International Red Cross to attend a training course for avalanche dogs in Engleberg, Switzerland.

There he saw the work of the Swiss Alpine Club in using the dog’s natural scenting ability to locate humans buried under the avalanche debris.

He saw immediately that this work could be adapted to meet search and rescue needs in the UK, although a more versatile approach would be required to suit the varying demands of the British operation.

When he returned, he began to train his two German shepherd dogs, Rangi and Tiki with impressive results. In December 1964, he held a pilot course in Glencoe, inviting six handlers and their dogs.

The results were so encouraging that in May 1965, he held a meeting at his house which resulted in the formation of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association, as an adjunct of the Mountain Rescue Service.

In December of that year, handlers from Scotland, England and Wales attended the first training course at Glencoe.

The Association grew in membership, and with its growth came a gradual acceptance of the value of the Search Dog Teams as part of an overall mountain rescue search capability, and an understanding of their special abilities.

In November 1977, as a result of a members referendum, it was decided to split SARDA into three Associations, representing England, Scotland and Wales. In 1983, the All Ireland SARDA was formed. Scotland operates as two associations, SARDA Southern Scotland, and SARDA Scotland.

In 1992, SARDA Lakes became an autonomous association in its own right, and changed its name in Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs, to reflect our close ties with the local rescue Teams.