OSWEGO, NY – Thom Benedetto and his faithful Labrador retriever K9, Philip, have been actively training toward certification as a search and rescue team.
They have attended numerous local, state and regional training programs, including a four-day national training conference in North Carolina, and most recently a two-day Human Remains Detection seminar in Pennsylvania under the direction of Matt Zarrella and Scott Carlsten, master trainers for the International Police Work Dog Association in search and rescue.
IPWDA training and accreditation programs are designed to prepare dogs and their handlers for the stringent conditions they will encounter.
Benedetto successfully worked Philip (‘Philly’) through various training scenarios including land area, building, crime scene and vehicle searches.
The use of dogs in search and rescue is a valuable component in wilderness tracking, natural disasters, mass casualty events and in locating missing people.
Dedicated volunteer handlers and well-trained dogs like Benedetto and Philly are required to conduct effective and successful search efforts.
Benedetto, a member of IPWDA since 2016, and Philly are working toward operational status as a K9 team in human remains detection, crime scene and water recovery.
Upon earning operational status, Benedetto and Philly will volunteer their services to the police and other law enforcement with locating missing persons.
Operational status would also be recognized anywhere in the United States and internationally.
K9 teams are a vital resource for emergency preparedness.
On average, 90,000 people are missing in the USA at any given time, according to Todd Matthews from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, a national database for missing people.
“As volunteers, we have traveled thousands of miles throughout the state and northeast for K9 training and participated in many searches throughout New York State,” Benedetto said.
Benedetto and K9 Philip have strong support in the Oswego County community, including North Country Kennel Club, Vella’s Market and Home Center, Babcock Highway Supply, Mexico Veterinary Hospital, members of the Mad River Club, Sandy Pond Sportsman’s Association, Certified Canine Services, Shivery Creek Canine, the Family of Jeremy Spencer/Jeremy Spencer Memorial Fund and numerous individuals.
“We appreciate the strong community support for K9 Philip. We are able to do this important work thanks to the generosity and support of all of these area businesses and individuals, ” he said.
Benedetto, who serves as a lieutenant with the Oswego County Pioneer Search and Rescue Team, has been a volunteer member since 2013.
He is certified as a Searcher 1 Crew Boss which allows him to lead a team of wilderness searchers and other volunteers in Oswego County and throughout the state.
Searcher 1 certification is an advanced status issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and involves hundreds of hours of initial training and continuing education and ongoing field training.
Benedetto’s wife, Patty, a handler in training with K9 Leela, also attended the seminar.
They are residents of Amboy and are both volunteers with the Oswego County Pioneers Search and Rescue team.