Current Operational Avalanche Dogs2018-11-21T11:19:19+00:00


Information for deploying an avalanche search dog:
Search dog mobilisation should be directed through the New Zealand Police, either local or by the 111 system – if however the dogs and handlers are deployed by other means, then the NZ Police should be notified as soon as possible thereafter.

Call outs should be made by dialing 111 and asking for the POLICE, give your location, the location of the incident, numbers presumed buried and any other relevant information you may be asked to provide, e.g. you may only require one or two dogs, or if the avalanche is larger, you will need dogs from a wider region. It is important that all relevant information is given as time is of the utmost importance when mobilising avalanche search dogs to save lives.

Name Dog Area Contact number
Phil Couch
Ruapehu – Turoa (027) 271 9308
Toby O’Hara Ralph Ruapehu – Turoa (027) 705 2268
Dave McKinley Stellar Twizel | Mt Cook (021) 220 5233
Anna Easthope (Advanced Operational) – Maternity Leave
Ra Twizel | Mt Cook (027) 217 4234
Callum Grant Zeffer Wanaka – Treble Cone (022) 169 1522
Matt Gunn Rocket Wanaka – Treble Cone (021) 319 824
Brendan Kearns Tussock Wanaka – Treble Cone (027) 695 6795
Mike Lundin Stellar Wanaka – Cardrona (021) 024 17538

It is essential to speed the arrival of search dogs at the accident site that air transport be a priority for the dogs and handlers. If at all possible a dog and handler team should be included in the first response party, if not, ASAP thereafter, it is important to notify the search dog advisor to ensure correct deployment procedures are adhered to and consequent back up dogs are placed in a state of readiness if they should be required.

When dogs are to be used at an incident site it should be attempted to locate landing and equipment sites downwind from the areas to be searched, this will prevent unwanted odours drifting across the search areas.
Operational dogs are trained to search in pairs and amongst personnel already on the debris site, please be aware that if a dog handler should require that personnel leave the debris field or that equipment sites are to be shifted then the dog handler/s will inform the accident site commander or responsible person/s of this.

Dogs must be summoned early, dogs should be called while there is still a chance of finding the victim or victims alive – not after all else has failed!

When search dogs are deployed, ensure that further operational dogs and their handlers are put in a state of readiness in case further resources are required. Don’t forget, dogs can work equally well in the dark.

All operational handlers are fully equipped and have the relevant expertise and knowledge of the alpine environment. If the location of the avalanche is unable to be reached on foot this should also be explained to the dog advisor so as winching equipment can accompany the dog teams.

NZ Land SAR Search Dogs
National Avalanche Coordinator
Karyn Robertson | (027) 406 3 604