SDF takes canine recruitment to new heights with volunteer pilot program

Since our beginning, the Search Dog Foundation has committed to rescuing homeless dogs and giving them a renewed purpose in life.

It can be difficult to cover the country’s thousands of shelters and rescues, which is why SDF has enlisted the help of recruiters throughout the United States to find and evaluate these special pups.

Located in California, Georgia, Florida, Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah, our recruiters visit shelters in their regions frequently, keeping an eye out for toy-obsessed, hyperactive canines that have a natural knack for searching.

If a dog passes the initial evaluation, they travel to our campus and complete a formal evaluation with our training team. This journey happens in several ways, and as our recruitment reach grows throughout the country, we have been honored to welcome a corps of volunteer pilots to the SDF Family.

Beginning in 2018, pilot Sean Moran began volunteering his time as he worked toward his instrument-rated certification. Over 24 months, Sean transported 18 canine candidates to SDF’s campus from Alabama, Kansas, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia.

As commercial airlines began to place more restrictions on canine travel, SDF found that private pilots provided safer, more reliable transportation for incoming candidates and focused on finding volunteers to help begin new search dogs’ journeys.

Two additional pilots, Donnie Lucy and Cindy Tait, both based at Santa Paula Airport, have joined Sean in helping transport incoming canine candidates when possible.

“Our volunteer pilots have used their skills to help save lives for 36 years, flying people to and from medical care,” says Ivan Martinez, Angel Flight West’s Director of Outreach. “And we know what a difference a single flight can make. Through SDF, Harley and our future four-legged passengers will learn the skills to become an extraordinary asset in emergency situations. One dog can make a difference, too, and we’re thrilled to play a role in making it happen.”

Together, SDF and Angel Flight West will be able to more efficiently transport canine candidates from all over the United States to SDF’s campus for evaluation, training and eventual pairing with a first responder-handler.

“We are grateful to the pilots and the dynamic team at Angel Flight West who support our SDF Family by volunteering their time and their planes to help give these special dogs a new life as search dogs,” shares SDF Executive Director, George Haynes. “Their generosity and appreciation for our mission will help us continue to elevate our recruitment of dogs from throughout the country so they can be trained as life-saving resources for our communities.”

If you are a pilot and would like to help SDF transport canine recruits to our campus in Southern California, by emailing us at today!

To learn more about Angel Flight West, visit