Fire and Rescue Service dogs take part in training exercise

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Media captionSimulated exercises for the USAR teams include searching collapsed structures

Fire and rescue dogs from across the country are taking part in a major training exercise in North Somerset.

The 12 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams are involved in a three-day event at the former Barrow Hospital site near Long Ashton, south of Bristol.

Simulated exercises include searching buildings and collapsed structures.

Some of the dogs have been involved high-profile cases such as the search for April Jones, who went missing from Machynlleth, Wales, in October.

"We're taking full use of the derelict nature of the site for the dogs to actually do their work, which is effectively to find live casualties within collapsed structures and surrounding areas by live scent," said Gary Carr-Smith from Avon Fire and Rescue Service.

'Scent conditions'

"The handlers are all Fires and Rescue Service personnel from USAR teams across the country.

"The dogs undergo intensive training, which takes about 18 months, and they operate by live scent. Dogs in other specialisms work under different scent conditions."

Each of the dogs belongs to a fire service USAR team which specialises in rescuing people from rubble, collapsed tunnels/mines, quarries, and in searching for people.

There are 19 USAR teams nationwide, and a total of 21 dog teams. One of the teams is based at Nailsea Fire Station.

They are specially trained to sniff out live casualties, using a 'game' scenario. Successful results will see them get a reward, usually by being given a toy.

Collies, Labradors and Springer Spaniels are the most common breed of rescue dog.

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