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Four Paws Up For National Disaster Search Dog Teams

United Way Thomas Fire, Flood Fund benefits work of rescue dogs

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation team searches debris following the Montecito debris flow.
National Disaster Search Dog Foundation team searches debris following the Montecito debris flow. (Zack Warburg)

Among the heroes braving the Montecito mudslides in January were 18 teams from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), the group’s largest single deployment since Hurricane Katrina.

Based in Santa Paula, SDF had two veteran Canine Disaster Search Teams ready and waiting in the area prior to the slide, allowing them to get straight to work.

Although it costs $20,000 to recruit, train and provide care for each canine, SDF provides the service free of charge. And because it receives no government funding, SDF relies on community support.

Recognizing the amazing service and work, United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Long-Term Recovery Committee awarded SDF $18,000 through the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund. It is one of 18 community organizations to receive initial money from the fund.

“The funding that came from United Way of Santa Barbara County was wonderful because it allows us to continue training the next generation of dogs,” said Denise Sanders, communications and development officer for the Search Dog Foundation.

“This funding allows us to pull more dogs from the shelter ... and put them out there to save lives,” Sanders said.
For more information about the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, visit

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is one of 18 community organizations to receive initial funding from the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund serving those affected in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

To date, more than $1.8 million has been allocated to Santa Barbara County’s affected families and the organizations serving them.

Currently, in Santa Barbara County, a phase two disbursement is underway to provide relief to individuals and families directly.

The phase two distribution is being carried out in partnership with Family Service Agency, which is providing case management for the individuals impacted by the disasters.

Every dollar contributed to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund will be used to fund services that address the needs of the individuals and families affected by the disasters.

For more information about recipient agencies, visit

— Sheridan Taphorn for United Way Santa Barbara County.

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