September 23, 2021, 20:14

    Crack squad reunite 2,000 lost dogs with owners using spy-in-the-sky drones

    Crack squad reunite 2,000 lost dogs with owners using spy-in-the-sky drones

    A crack squad of volunteers is tracking down lost dogs with spy-in-the-sky drones.

    More than 2,000 runaway pooches have been reunited with their owners after being spotted from above.

    The “canine-nine-nine” rescue service was launched by dog lover Graham Burton after he saw owners were going on Facebook pleading for drone pilots to look for their missing pets.

    Graham set up the Drone Search and Rescue network in 2017. It now has more than 1,700 volunteers across the UK and Ireland – and they don’t charge a penny.

    Retired photographer Graham, 66, said: “Some people do this for money, sadly, but we do this purely for the joy of reuniting a dog with its owners. The feeling is unbelievable.

    Drone SAR for Lost Dogs is led by grandad Graham Burton who has been thrilled to reunite the runaway canines with their owners.
    (Image: Triangle News)

    “From the height that the drones can fly, we can see far more than what anybody can see on the ground.

    “Sometimes you will find them within minutes. Sometimes it can take days.

    “But a drone can cover fields far more quickly than walking them.”

    Owners post pictures and information about their missing dogs on the Drone SAR Facebook group and pilots comment if they are in a position to help.

    Esther Seymour-Shaw hailed the group as “unsung heroes” after volunteers helped reunite her sister Belinda with her beloved black labrador Crumble.

    Ex-teacher Belinda, of Manchester, said rescue dog Crumble had a history of abandonment and she and Esther “feared the worst” when they became separated from the pup.

    Michelle and Louie reunited with the help of SAR for Lost Dogs
    (Image: Triangle News)

    Esther hailed the “incredibly skilled, knowledgeable and caring group of volunteers” who located Crumble.

    She said: “If we’d followed our panicked instincts we could have lost her forever.”

    George Wiltshire and daughter Alice, five, were devastated when an older dog charged at his four-month-old pup Tommy, who fled across Southampton Common in fear.

    Tommy was missing for an agonising two days. But George’s post in Drone SAR amassed more than 4,000 shares, and Tommy was soon spotted at Poundland, where a kind couple picked him up, by someone in the group.

    Stella the boxer dog was missing for three days last July when she ran off after being hit by a car
    (Image: Triangle News)

    George, 23, said: “Our little girl was so happy when she came home from school to see him running up to her to give her a cuddle.”

    Michelle Burrow, a support worker from South Wales, spent an agonising 36 hours looking for her dog Louie. They were also reunited thanks to Drone SAR’s efforts.

    Michelle, 37, said: “I was so happy and relieved when they found him.”

    The network has even amassed the odd celebrity client, including “a couple of rock stars” and TV baker Mary Berry, 86. Mary asked for help in 2017 – but her dog turned up at a neighbour’s.

    A drone pilot guides searches to the dog
    (Image: Triangle News)

    As well as dogs, rescuers have traced a pig, cows, horses, goats and the odd cat. Their expertise has also been sought on missing persons cases.

    Graham, of Pontypridd, South Wales, explained: “We have been contacted a number of times to ask if we can help by different forces. It normally comes via the missing person’s family, but as long as they get clearance from the police then we will help.”

    The most recent was the search for teenager Frankie Morris, from North Wales, who disappeared in June after attending an illegal rave in a quarry.

    The 18-year-old’s body was found a few weeks later – and Graham’s team attended his funeral.

    Graham set up the Drone Search and Rescue network in 2017. It now has more than 1,700 volunteers across the UK and Ireland – and they don’t charge a penny
    (Image: Triangle News)

    Graham came up with the idea for the rescue group five years ago, having used a drone to keep tabs on his Staffordshire terrier cross, Meg.

    He didn’t expect much interest but soon changed his mind after learning that drone pilots had quoted an old lady £800 to find her labrador.

    Graham, who was angered by the price, said: “A couple of guys I knew got together and they found her dog and they never charged a penny.”

    Drone SAR has been inundated with requests during the pandemic as dog thefts surged by 250%. Looking ahead, the sky’s the limit for the group.

    Graham added: “We have more pilots joining by the day, it’s incredible and non-stop with people wanting to help volunteer.”


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