National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

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Who We Are

Founded in 1996, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Ojai, California.

Adopting a new family member

So that SDF can stay in close touch with the Lifetime Care families, adoptions are made only in California.

Lifetime Care

NDSDF makes a Lifetime Care Commitment to each dog accepted into its program: Once rescued, these dogs will never need to be rescued again. If a dog is accepted by NDSDF but does not complete the training program, it is placed in a Lifetime Care home. The adoption works beautifully for both dog and adoptive family. We closely monitor the needs of all Lifetime Care families and their dogs. If at any time these families are not able to care for the dog, we see that they are placed in another loving home.

Normally, an NDSDF dog remains with its handler throughout its lifetime. Should this not be possible, this dog also becomes part of the Lifetime Care program.


In April of 1995, retired Ojai, CA schoolteacher Wilma Melville was sent to Oklahoma City with her FEMA-advanced certified search dog, Murphy, to search for survivors. One survivor was found, but there were too few canine search teams to adequately respond to a disaster of this size.

Determined to do something about this alarming gap in our national disaster response network, later that year Wilma founded the Search Dog Foundation, based in Ojai, California. She designed a program based on the recruitment of rescued and donated dogs and on a streamlined, professional training methodology.

Our Mission

Our mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. We offer the professionally trained canines and an ongoing training program at no cost to fire departments. And we ensure lifetime care for every dog in our program: once rescued, these dogs never need to be rescued again.

There are currently 70 SDF-trained Search Teams located in California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah. Thanks to Mutual Aid Agreements between counties, cities and states, these precious, life-saving resources can be shared regionally and nationally.

Come Visit Us!

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation
501 E. Ojai Avenue
Ojai, CA 93023

Phone: (805) 4K9-HERO

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