Solid training is essential in preparing rescue dogs for for life-saving emergency recoveries. On May 30 and 31, 2015, Aggregate Industries US (a Holcim Group Company) hosted an International Rescue Organization (IRO) Dog Trial. A specially designed disaster training site at the Company’s Littleton, Mass., facility was used to evaluate U.S. and Canadian K-9 teams for disaster search work.

At the event, organized by the International Rescue Dog Organization (IRO), four rescue dogs and their handlers underwent rigorous testing and a search for volunteer human “survivors” under piles of rubble. Handlers sent their dogs into the rubble pile to independently and thoroughly sniff out buried “victims” and alert their handlers to their presence by barking. Dogs that pass these rigorous tests must be highly driven to search, as well as possess strong nerves and an independent work ethic, as they frequently are searching out of sight of their handlers. The dogs must also possess excellent obedience skills and be comfortable moving across unstable surfaces, climbing ladders and being carried.

Aggregate Industries built the Littleton K-9 Testing Facility in 2010, when the Company first hosted a similar event with the Massachusetts Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team (MA-TF 1 US&R). The course is specially designed to replicate situations where dogs must locate buried survivors.

This was the second year that an IRO event was held at the Aggregate Industries site. The test was conducted by Canine Alert Search Team (CAST) from Hancock, N.H. CAST is an IRO member and the only organization currently running IRO tests in the United States.

“The location is unique and indispensable to the complete training of a search dog. If a dog can work through the challenges of difficult footing, dispersed scent problems and working out of sight of its handler, then you know you have a very strong search and rescue dog capable of working in the most difficult of environments,” said Elizabeth LaPointe, one of the organizers of the event.

As the world turns its eyes on Nepal following both the late April and recent earthquakes, the value of such well-trained dogs is clear. On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries and affecting over 8 million people. Within hours, mobilization of aid from around the world was mustered. This aid included the deployment of K-9 teams trained to work in disaster situations and to hone in on the scent of living persons. Many of these teams are trained and tested under an internationally accepted standard developed by the International Rescue Dog Organization (IRO).

“We are pleased that the International Rescue Dog Organization has selected Aggregate Industries to host this certification for the second time,” said Guy Edwards, chief operating officer of Aggregate Industries US. “The International Rescue Dog Organization and the rescue dogs do an incredible job and perform an indispensable service to both our nation and the world. We feel privileged to support the IRO’s crucial work and look forward to the event.”

The IRO works in cooperation with the United Nations Organization (UNO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as well as the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). In addition, in 2006, the IRO partnered with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) (the international canine federation responsible for the breeding and training of all breeds) in order to develop standardized testing requirements and testing opportunities for search and rescue dogs.

The IRO Testing Event received the generous support of sponsors including Aggregate Industries US, Champion PetFoods (representing Arcana, Blue Buffalo, Earthborn, Pro Pac, Sportmix, and Orijen) and numerous private donations.

To learn more about the IRO Testing Event, please see  A schedule of events is posted and details on testing standards are available.

About Aggregate Industries US
Aggregate Industries US is a leading provider of aggregate and construction materials to markets in 16 states and 300 cities. The Company operates six regional businesses across the US, including the Midwest Region.

About the International Rescue Dog Organization 
The IRO is dedicated to defining internationally recognized canine search and rescue standards, and the training and testing of handler/K9 teams for eventual deployment to global disasters. The IRO was formed in 1993 (the main office is located in Salzburg, Austria) and is the worldwide umbrella organization for national K9 search and rescue organizations working under IRO standards. Currently, there are over 110 member organizations in 38 countries. It is funded through membership fees as well as sponsorship money from supporting organizations and individuals. Funds are used to support training and testing of K9 teams.