SDF Announces a Very Special “Passing of the Leash”

Over the past 20 years, the Search Dog Foundation has had many accomplishments and milestones to celebrate. It has been an honor to share each one of them with you along the way. In this way, you have been a part of our organization’s history and a vital part of our SDF family. Our time together has presented  many changes and opportunities to evolve and enhance the organization and operations in order to better serve our communities and country through our life-saving work.

Over the years, SDF has been fortunate to have an incredible and  passionate staff with unique experiences and talents, as well as dedicated Board members  to help grow and expand our mission. Today,  we are excited to share that a new member is joining the SDF family!

After 12 years of leading SDF as our Executive Director, Debra Tosch has made the decision to pass the leash to George Haynes, who brings substantial  experience and knowledge to SDF. (Read George’s bio here)

For over 25 years, George has led both non-profit and for-profit organizations by motivating and inspiring collaborative partnerships and strategic implementations. Growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania and working as a canine care specialist at Lackland Air Force Base while in college, George has a passion and appreciation for animals of all types, and recognizes the incredible potential that our Search Dogs have in saving lives – as well as a devotion to SDF’s mission and goals.

While Debra will be stepping down from her role as Executive Director, SDF will continue to benefit from her experience, expertise and passion. Debra is transitioning to the role of Program Manager and will be working closely with our Search Teams and Task Forces to ensure they are well-trained and prepared the next time disaster strikes.

As a former Handler herself, Debra and her Search Dog Abby were deployed multiple times, including  Ground Zero after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and  local incidents like the La Conchita mudslide in 2005.

With the opening of the National Training Center on target for fall of this year, and the drastic expansion of our recruitment efforts to shelters and rescue groups, there will be many more milestones and celebrations to be excited about in 2017 and beyond! We look forward to sharing every one of them with the people who make it all possible – especially YOU!

Thank you for your continued support and, most importantly, for being Part of the Search!


It has been an honor and privilege to work with you, and I don’t need to tell you how proud I have been to serve as the Executive Director of the Search Dog Foundation for so many years. As a former handler myself, I know firsthand the critical importance of our mission, and the invaluable support we provide to the brave men, women and canines who risk their lives to save others in the face of disasters.


With the completion of the NTC project on the horizon, I took time to reflect – in the spirit of looking forward and imagining the vital and significant difference our mission could make on strengthening disaster response in our country.


And so, it is with great devotion to SDF, enthusiasm for our future, and confidence in our next steps forward that the time has come to “pass the leash,” just as we did in 2005 when Wilma stepped down as Executive Director and selected me as her successor.


As George assumes the role of Executive Director to grow and lead the Search Dog Foundation into the future, I am excited to be shifting into a different role here at SDF, one that gives me the opportunity to work directly once again with the handlers in the field. This is my true passion and something that has always held a special place in my heart. In this way George and I, together with our incredible staff, can elevate our organization into the agency it needs to be to help address a critical gap in our country’s ability to respond to disasters.

– Debra Tosch

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