Canine Team Leader, CANL

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The purpose of this position is to plan and coordinate the canine search component during incident operations.  This includes responsibility for all personnel, canine, and equipment resources as well as oversight of canine search team operations.


  • Plans, coordinates and may lead ground based search operations utilizing handlers and their canine partners.
  • Develops and implements the canine search component of the Incident Action Plan.  Directs searches in outdoor environments or other locations using appropriate canine equipment and techniques such as area search, scent discriminating area search, and wilderness trailing.
  • Coordinates, manages, and supervises assigned search and reconnaissance activities.  Determines team search and reconnaissance operational and logistic needs.  Evaluates the capabilities/limitations of team members and their canine partners, and ensures adherence to all safety procedures.  Evaluates team member performance.
  • Utilizes maps, compass, and GPS equipment to track and document search areas.
  • Provides emergency medical treatment within the scope of certification and training.
  • Accounts for, and ensures the proper utilization of all issued SAR equipment.
  • Presents briefings, prepares situation reports and updates mission objectives and status changes.  Develops and completes all incident tactical objectives and reports.  Maintains accurate records, and completes all after-action requirements.  Completes operational period unit logs.
  • Participates in the oversight, administrative and operational control of the development, implementation and operational aspects of canine search component training.  Conducts the Canine Handler evaluation process.
  • Provides input at the field level concerning development of new technologies, equipment, tactics and skills as they pertain to the canine search component.

Position Knowledge and/or Requirements

  • Operational knowledge of the Incident Command System (ICS), and the development and use of integrated action planning concepts and processes.
  • Thorough knowledge of canine search capabilities, limitations, and procedures such as gained through successful completion of NASAR Canine SARTECH I or equivalent.
  • Advanced knowledge of canine search techniques including area searches, trailing, and grid searches for evidence or clues.
  • Practical knowledge of general search strategy and tactics, including probability of detection analysis, victim behavior patterns in various situations, search pattern selection criteria including terrain, structures, wind, weather, and air circulation characteristics, canine search team organization and operational procedures, and the capabilities and limitations of technical and electronic search equipment.
  • Knowledge of basic rescue operations, litter operations, helicopter operations, and boat operations.
  • Knowledge of supervisory practices and principles sufficient to provide leadership, foster open communication and teamwork, provide work direction, and evaluate the performance of search team members.
  • Ability to provide emergency medical treatment as a first responder.
  • Ability to provide canine first aid.
  • Knowledge of the procedures for Body Substance Isolation (BSI) and the precautions required to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
  • Knowledge of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and its appropriate use in search, rescue, and recovery operations.
  • Knowledge of situational awareness requirements including personal equipment, canine support equipment and supplies, essential rescue equipment, and general all-risk hazards.
  • Advanced knowledge of the technical aspects of search theory, including map, compass, and GPS techniques.
  • Ability to accurately sketch a search area, and to apply and interpret search area marking techniques for perimeters, alert areas, hazards, etc.
  • Knowledge of the proper use and field maintenance of search and communication equipment.
  • Ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

Supervisory Controls

Work direction is provided by the Incident Commander, Division Supervisor, Planning Section Chief, or other designated supervisor.  The work is performed independently in accordance with the Incident Action Plan, or operational directives.  Work is reviewed for acceptability and compliance with operating instructions and procedures.


Procedures for doing the work have been established and a number of specific guidelines or standard orders are available such as oral instructions, standard operating procedures, maps, instruction manuals, and health and safety codes.  Occasional problems may not be specifically covered by guidelines.

The incumbent uses independent judgment in determining the most appropriate guidelines, reference and procedures based on the situation at hand, and individual park rules and regulations.


The incumbent plans and coordinates search activities of search team members, their canine partners, and other team members in a wide variety of functional areas which require diverse skills, often involving critical lifesaving situations such as search and rescue, emergency medical and aviation incidents, as well as interactions that require sensitivity to concessionaire relationships.  Emergency response often involves decision-making and action in extremely adverse physical and emotional conditions and ability to function effectively in controversial and/or sensitive situations.  Other areas of responsibility such as supervision, safety, etc., require a broad range of administrative skills and knowledge of incident objectives.  Work requires application and modification of established practices in most areas of responsibility, with considerable individual discretion and judgment exercised in emergency situations.

Scope and Effect

The purpose of this position is to plan and coordinate a team in canine search operations, to implement incident objectives for a safe operation and to work for short to extended periods of time when looking for clues or lost subjects during multiple operational period incidents.

The Canine Team Leader decisions and actions impacts the safety of others, the efficiency of assignments, and the effectiveness and timeliness of mission accomplishment.

Personal Contacts

Personal contacts are with canine team members, local agency search and rescue team personnel, and/or incident management team personnel during the duration of the incident.  Additional contacts may be made with media operations, family members, special interest groups, and others interested and assisting with the incident.

Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of contacts is to obtain briefings and orders, as well as to relay incident information to and from the incident management team and other team members, and to provide general and specific information and assistance.

Physical Demands

Work routinely involves physically rigorous assignments and strenuous activity.  Incumbent must maintain excellent physical condition to carry out responsibilities, including the ability to hike and climb in mountainous and desert terrain, to perform lengthy search, rescue and recovery missions, to perform assignments in remote areas of steep, hazardous terrain, accessible only by foot, and in all weather conditions.  These routine and emergency situations often require clear reasoning and decisive action under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress.

Work Environment

Work environment is predominately outdoors in all types of terrain conditions, night or day, including in inclement weather, and for prolonged periods of time.  Travel may be by foot, ski, snowshoe, vehicle, aircraft or boat.  The incumbent is subject to cold, hot, windy, wet, or snowy conditions for several days at a time.  Working elevations range from below sea level to above 8,000 feet.


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