MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Turning aggressive and unadoptable dogs at the Memphis Animal Shelter into heroes is the goal of the Tennessee Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue team. It's the latest step to try to reduce overcrowding at the shelter and the number of dogs that have to be put down.
MAS employees already started learning how to pick these unwanted dogs. Then the Task Force takes these dogs through something like doggie boot camp. If they pass they become certified rescue dogs. If not, they're put back in the shelter with these new skills and are now adoptable pets.
Buster is a half beagle, half boxer dog and wasn't a "perfect" pet. In fact, he was going to be put down at another shelter until the Tennessee Task Force picked him up.
"We're looking for that dog that is not the best pet but who wants to work and he can have a full career and be a superhero and make a difference in the world,” said Task Force canine trainer Deborah Burnett.
After training Buster for 6 months, he's now a certified FEMA rescue dog. He is also a candidate for the 2012 American Humane Association "Hero Dog Award."
“He has a lot of heart in that itty bitty body,” Burnett told abc24 news. “He's the smallest dog in the FEMA system. He out works every Labrador, he out works all the Shepherds, and he out swims them."
That's what this group does: train unwanted dogs from all over the country to be disaster rescue dogs.
"We not only train dogs for ourselves we train dogs for task forces around the nation and because of that we need a lot of dogs,” said the Tennessee Task Force Once Deputy Director Michael Putt.
The group came to the Memphis Animal Shelter to fill that need.
"It's a very good partnership," said MAS Interim Director James Rogers. “We get over 16,000 animals per year. Out of those 16,000 animals I'm hoping that we can get a fairly good percentage trained. Even if they're not accepted in the program at least the animals will be adoptable."
Not only do these dogs get trained to save people but people are saving their lives in return.
"It's a dog that probably would be put down and we're fitting a mold that we can pull some dogs out that are great heroes. It's jut a win, win for us,” said Burnett.
Buster the dog has been deployed to hurricanes Gustav and Ike and tornadoes that hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011. You can vote for Buster to win the "Hero Dog Award" at http://www.herodogawards.org/vote/?nominee=66876239#