AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Search and Rescue is a nonprofit that helps first responders with services. They have resources on the ground, in the air, and in the water. They help with everything from active missing persons cases to cold cases.
In this week's "Missing in Texas," we take a look at their K9 team.
Families can reach out to TEXSAR, but only law enforcement can ask them to deploy a team. Every case is unique.
"Depending on the need of the investigation, whether it's just an agency that needs manpower or most of the time, there is at least an area that has been identified for us to search," Todd Snyder, director of the Missing Persons Unit, said.
They had nine missions in October. Some cases involved dozens of searches.
They have 250 volunteers across the state. Volunteers all go through training.
"They obviously come from all walks of life. They have their day jobs, and they're still soccer coaches, and they're moms, and they're dads and all those things. The dedication, the commitment, they're character-driven people, it's incredible to watch them work," Snyder said.
Joe Houston, a K9 leader for TEXSAR, takes care of training dogs. Handlers decide how dogs can best search an area. Houston demonstrated how his 11-year-old black Labrador retriever, a human remains detection dog, finds a sample and sits by it.
"Once we get out to the area, we look at and make a determination based upon the wind, the environment, how much time we have on how we're going to search and try to accomplish the task in the most efficient way possible," he said.
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Dogs go through certifications every year. TEXSAR has almost two dozen dogs that serve as lifeline dogs or cadaver dogs. Which ones are deployed depends on the case.
"[Human remains detection dogs'] only responsibility is to determine if they find something, is it human or is it not human? We have the proof off of everything in the environment, like deer, pig, bobcats, whatever else is out there," Houston said.
K9s are just one of the tools TEXSAR uses to help search for missing people. They have ground searchers, equine, aerial, and water teams.
The K9s are always training, sometimes going to the Texas State body farm.
If you're having surgery, ask your doctor if you can donate anything. "We need fresh material to be able to train on. Plain and simple, we're looking for donations of body parts," Houston said.
For more information about TEXSAR and how to volunteer or donate, click here.