Firefighters want change in law for search dog

ESSEX firefighters who went to earthquake-hit Indonesia have called for a change in the law to prevent their rescue dog from being stuck in quarantine for the next six months.

James Hore

ESSEX firefighters who went to earthquake-hit Indonesia have called for a change in the law to prevent their rescue dog from being stuck in quarantine for the next six months.

A specialist rescue team returned home from the disaster zone last night after trying in vain to save more than 600 people who were buried alive by a mudslide.

The seven officers, who come from stations across the county, spent a week in Indonesia with their rescue dog, Darcy, who proved invaluable in the search efforts in the wet and incredibly humid conditions.

The team arrived at the site of a massive mudslide four days after it happened and although they were unable to find any survivors, Darcy's search skills helped the villagers realise no-one could be pulled out alive.

But now, under "antiquated" UK quarantine laws, Darcy will have to spend the next six months in a cage measuring two-metres by four-metres as part of quarantine procedures, whereas other European rescue dogs used in Indonesia are already back at work.

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When the six months is completed, the dog will also need re-training.

Speaking at a press conference at fire headquarters in Kelvedon today the team expressed its frustration with the situation.

Darcy's handler, John Ball, said: “Darcy proved there was nobody alive there and in doing so provided closure for locals by proving there was no-one there.

“Darcy unfortunately has to be in quarantine for six months.

“It is an antiquated law based on scientific evidence of that time - we now have vaccinations against rabies and can do tests."

The team said because they knew where Darcy had been throughout the week-long operation, the chances of her having rabies were “nil”.

Station officer Terry Jewell added: “Two dogs will now have to be re-trained and brought back up to standard and it does have a knock-on effect. Darcy is a particularly good dog.”

The Indonesian earthquake mission was the furthest the UK International Search and Rescue Team has been since its formation.

Station officer Terry Webb said it had been “very humbling” experience for the Lexden-based team.

“The people out there have very little and are very, very resilient.

“It was very, very humbling for us to see how they quite literally just got on with things.”

And Mark Sladden added: "The people were pleased that we were there and that they had not been forgotten.

"It was very surreal - just cheering - in a way it was like a carnival procession as they were so pleased that they had not been forgotten and that there was people there to help."

Although the rescue team was not able to save anyone, they were then placed alongside Save the Children workers as they carried out humanitarian efforts.

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