7 SDF Search Teams Achieve Certification!

Congratulations to all of the Canine Disaster Search Teams who recently achieved Certification in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Riverside, California!

On February 23, Oklahoma Task Force 1 hosted a State Certification evaluation in Tulsa where several Search Teams passed the test, including veteran SDF team Judy Zinn & Royce. This marked Judy & Royce's third Certification, meaning they remain able to deploy with the Task Force for an additional three years. As Royce is just over 9 years old, this will likely be his last Certification with Judy before his retiremetn. Until then, they will continue to serve the state of Oklahoma and surrounding region, ready to deploy when they are called upon - especially as tornado season is right around the corner.

Then, on March 2-3, six SDF-trained Search Teams achieved FEMA Certification in Riverside at the evaluation hosted by California Task Force 6. Despite varying weather conditions, our teams did very well and five Re-certified while one team achieved Certification for the very first time!

The teams that Certified are:


  1. Mike Toepfer & Deacon (CA-TF2, Los Angeles County)


  1. Brandon Budd & Josie (CA-TF7, Sacramento)
  2. Wade Haller & Rex (CA-TF5, Orange County)
  3. Eric Lieuwen & Jake (CA-TF7, Sacramento)
  4. Alex Mengell & Gunner (CA-TF4, Oakland)
  5. Mike Stornetta & Rocket (CA-TF4, Oakland)

Some of our teams shared their excitement and dedication to preparing for deployment as they achieved this major milestone in their careers. Here is what they had to say about their recent Certifications:

“Josie made me look good. The training of these dogs, and their natural ability to search, should make everyone rest easy knowing they are available 24/7.” - Brandon Budd


“It was so satisfying to complete our 4th certification and likely Rex's last. It was amazing to see Rex navigate the pile as if he was a puppy again not 10 years old. We are so grateful to have the support of the Foundation who have kept us ready to deploy across the nation to support the FEMA USAR mission.” - Wade Haller


“Thanks to my very supportive canine team here in Sacramento, Jake and I were set up for success. Jake is a joy to have as a partner and I never get tired of watching him work. Looking forward to many more years as a team.” - Eric Lieuwen


“Successfully certifying and being ready to respond comes down to having full support of SDF staff and access to a world class training center to keep our skills sharp.” - Mike Stornetta


“It’s an awesome feeling to be able to send your dog onto a rubble pile and watch him work! But when they go on the pile and confidently find victims and knock it out of the park, it’s an even better feeling. I’m so proud of Deacon and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.” - Mike Toepfer

We are so proud of all the teams that proved they are able to be deployed with their respective Task Forces when the call for help comes in. Over these past few months, between the 37 SDF-trained teams deployed to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the Mexico City earthquake in September 2017, to the recent Montecito mudslides, we know these resources are sorely needed and invaluable when the unthinkable happens.