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Local search and rescue organization helps law enforcement during rescue missions

Mid-Atlantic Dogs, a volunteer organization of dogs and their handlers, helps safety officials search disaster zones, fires and aid police in searches.

WASHINGTON — Every minute counts when searching for a missing individual, and community members recognize how time is a crucial element during a search. 

A group that started as a grassroots organization created a petition to get D.C. Police a search and rescue dog to help maximize efforts during a missing persons case.

But this group isn't the only one that views search and rescue dogs as crucial to potentially life-saving searches.

Mid-Atlantic Dogs, a group of volunteers, dedicate their lives to transforming man's best friend into life-savers. They train dogs for rescue missions several times a week, and are a non-profit organization.

RELATED: CRITICAL MISSING: 12-year-old girl from Northwest, DC

Mid-Atlantic Dogs works with local law enforcement and aids in their rescue missions. The group gets dozens of calls every year to search for the missing and vulnerable. 

The dogs are air scent dogs, meaning they use their nose to comb through 40-80 acres of land to find a missing person. They also search in areas where a natural disaster has occurred. 

The group of citizens who began the petition believe search and rescue dogs would be a critical tool in helping find an endless list of missing loved ones in D.C., like David Stern, an accountant who mysteriously disappeared from Georgetown in November 2018. He hasn't been seen since. 

Search and rescue dogs have proven themselves useful. Earlier this year, Charlie, Maryland State Police's bloodhound found an 11-year-old girl from Southeast, D.C., after she went missing in freezing temperatures.

Mid-Atlantic Dogs has had its successes too — according to the organization, they started 30 years ago, and the dogs and their handlers go on nearly 40 rescue missions each year. 

Those involved with Mid-Atlantic Dogs believe their tireless efforts are worth it.

"It was Father's Day, we got to bring him home, we got to bring him home to his father and child, the last thing he said was, 'Can I hug your dog?" dog handler Bob Francis said.

RELATED: CRITICAL MISSING: 17-year-old girl from Northeast, DC

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