Search Dogs Save Children After Italy’s Devastating Earthquake

To help save victims of the devastating 6.2 earthquake that struck central Italy on August 24, about 50 trained search-and-rescue dogs worked alongside more than 5,000 rescuers. They were successfully able to sniff out survivors trapped in the rubble, including two children.

Although her sister tragically did not survive, an 8-year-old girl named Georgia, trapped for 16 hours, is alive thanks to Leo, a 4-year-old black Lab.

“Yesterday we were given the information that under a two-story collapsed house in Pescara del Tronto there were two missing girls,” an officer with Polizia de Stato, one of Italy’s national police forces, said in a video posted on Twitter. “Immediately we went to the location and Leo, in less than 40 seconds, gave us a strong signal. With our colleagues and the firemen, we dug with our bare hands for nine hours, and at the end we were able to find the girl.”

Another search-and-rescue dog, Sarotti, led rescuers to Giulia, an 11-year-old girl trapped for 15 hours in the rubble in Amatrice.

“The dog signaled right away that there was a person under the rubble,” Davide Agrestini, an officer with the Polizia de Stato dog search-and-rescue unit, told Reuters.

“We started digging and saw a part of the pajama of a little girl or a boy. The firefighters started digging and found the little girl and told us that she was not dead, that she was alive.”

Search Dogs from Other Countries Come to Help

Immediately after the earthquake struck, rescuers Cristobal Rodriguez and Juan Manuel Lacueva drove 12 hours from Spain to Amatrice with their search dogs, Lula and Blackie.

“Firefighters from Malaga are always the first ones called,” Lacueva told the Guardian. “We have the best rescue dogs.”

If a search dog barks, it means someone is alive less than 7 feet below the rubble, Lacueva explained. The rescuers then carefully dig out the survivor, usually by hand. Overnight after the earthquake, Lacueva said about 15 people were rescued.

“And for that, there are no words,” he told the Guardian. “It’s an emotional feeling inside, that makes you feel alive.”

If a search dog sniffing out the rubble doesn’t bark, it indicates there are no survivors below. Heavy machinery is brought in to clear the debris, with care being taken in case there are bodies.

The dogs usually stop barking about three days after a disaster like the Amatrice quake occurs. The rescue efforts then become recovery efforts, since it’s unlikely that victims would be able to survive that long without water.

Rescued Dogs Rescue People

In the U.S., the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation rescues dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups, and in turn trains them to rescue people.

“The traits that can make dogs unsuitable as family pets and land them in a shelter—intense energy and extreme drive—are exactly the qualities required in a search dog,” the nonprofit says on its website.

After the dogs are trained, they are partnered with firefighters and first responders. They’ve been deployed to sniff out survivors in Japan, Haiti, Nepal and other countries that, like Italy, were struck by devastating earthquakes.

Photo credit: YouTube


joan silaco
joan silaco2 years ago


federico bortoletto


Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago


Janet B.
Janet B2 years ago


Rachael J.
Rachael J2 years ago

Words can't even describe what all dog's can do for you & humans even for a purpose like this where they save lives & yet we all need to give them the love back.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Dogs and SAR handlers are amazing. Total dedication. The extreme emotions they must go through find live vs dead. Many training facilities are using rescue dogs and they are also realizing they make good PTSD therapy dogs. People expect so much from dogs and dogs expect so little in return; just love.

Sandra aquila
Sandra Aquila2 years ago

Dogs are truly man's best friend. They are always there for you no matter what. They can be trained for every different way to help us. We as humans should always respect dogs and make all shelters no kill.

Wendi M.
Wendi M2 years ago

Because Dogs are truly incredible

Monica R.
Monica R2 years ago

Thank you to Leo, Sarotti and all the other rescue dogs and their handlers. Great work.

Petra Demmers
Petra Demmers2 years ago

The reason why these dogs are used is devastating, but what a wonderful job they do!!
And how lucky we humans are that they're around!!