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Mast Park in Santee today plays host to a training session for the all-volunteer canine Search and Rescue teams of the San Diego and Riverside Sheriff’s Departments, as well as the Murrieta Police Department.

A team of 20 handlers and nine dogs ranging from bloodhounds to beagles and golden retrievers will go through a series of exercises to practice for real life rescue scenarios, including gathering a scent from a missing person’s car seat and determining the direction a person may have traveled.

The dogs and their owners undergo a five-month training program to join Search and Rescue. Once completed, all participants rank at or above state standards for rescue animals. They then continue their training twice a week, and are available 24 hours a day for use in manhunts in both urban and rural settings.

Representatives from the sheriff’s office in Polk County, Iowa, flew in to observe the session as part of their research to establish a similar program.

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