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Civil Defence K9 Unit welcome new dogs and introduces first fully trained female handler

The Civil Defence K9 Unit announced today that they have recently added two new search dogs to their Victim Recovery Unit. Civil Defence K9 Unit are also pleased to announce the recent qualification of their first female dog handler, Karen Kelly.

Civil Defence is a volunteer-based organisation that supports frontline emergency services. Civil Defence also assist local communities and has approximately 2,500 volunteer members throughout Ireland.


Civil Defence acquired its first search dog in 2006. As of March 2023, Civil Defence has four search dog teams based in Dublin, Meath, and Tipperary. These comprise One Air-Scenting dog used in searching for live persons, and four Victim Recovery Dogs used in searches for deceased persons. These dogs regularly assist An Garda Síochána in missing person’s searches throughout the State. The volunteer search dog handlers have shown great commitment to this work over the years.

Most recently in January 2023 Meath Volunteer Handler Karen Kelly and her Victim Recovery Dog, Rossi qualified after a year-long training programme which included 150 hours of guided training from a National Association of Specialist Dog Users (NASDU) recognised body. It culminated in her being awarded a Level 3 Certificate NASDU, U.K., which is a Highfield Awarding Body Centre (HABC).


Tánaiste and Minister of Defence, Mícheál Martin, T.D. said today;

“I’d like to recognise the contribution that Civil Defence volunteers play in missing person searches. Civil Defence K9 unit assisted An Garda Síochána in 33 of 250 missing person searches in 2021 and 2022. The K9’s assistance was a very valuable contribution in bringing these searches to a conclusion.”


Meath Civil Defence Officer Shane Quinn added;

Today is a significant day for the ability of Civil Defence to respond to missing person searches due to this additional specialism. It will increase capability of Civil Defence to respond and locate missing persons. The role of and relevance of CD K9 Unit is proving to be more important than ever due to increase in call-outs/demand in recognition of our skillset.”


Civil Defence Branch of the Department of Defence provides support and equipment to Civil Defence K9 Units, which includes, specialised K9 vehicles, PPE, training and exercises, to allow them respond to missing person searches in a safe and efficient manner. 


New volunteers are always welcome to join Civil Defence, with information available through your local Civil Defence officer or




**Pictures of the event will issue by Maxwell Photography following the event. **


Notes to the editor


In September 2022 Dublin Civil Defence received a donation of a Victim Recovery Dog, ‘Archie’, from Police Scotland. This Dog was homed with another Volunteer Handler Michael O’Sullivan who already had Max, also a Victim Recovery Dog. Archie was assessed along with our other four dogs in October by an external assessor who is accredited by the UK Association of Chief Police Officers.

The second handler with Dublin Civil Defence is Paul Byrne, who handles Mist, another Victim Recovery Dog. Paul also has extensive experience working with the primary response agencies, mainly An Garda Síochána in missing person searches.

Finally, the Civil Defence Air Scent Dog Scooby is based in Tipperary. His handler Mark Condon has been with the K9 service from its inception. Civil Defence are currently planning for Scooby’s succession in late 2023 with a training programme planned for next year.