Feb 27, 2014 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff WriterWyoming students raised money to buy the first trained mine-detecting dog 25 years ago for use overseas.
Senna, a dog that specializes in detecting land mines to save the lives of people and other animals, paid a visit Wednesday to Ashgrove Elementary School in Riverton.
Kimberly McCasland, vice president of children's programs and victims assistance at Marshall Legacy Institute was joined by Diana Enzi, the wife of U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, promoting the Children Against Mine Problems Canine Ambassador program, which was first funded by students in Wyoming.
Enzi said CHAMPS started 25 years ago, when students in Wyoming raised more than $20,000 to purchase a mine-detecting dog to help other countries.
Although the United States does not have any land mines, Enzi said the state supplies the most help to other countries in trying to locate mines.
"We care that much about other people," Enzi told the students.
According to McCasland, two people in the world die from a land mine every hour -- one of them younger than 15 years old. Hundreds of animals are killed every day by mines as well.
"All it takes is the weight of a bunny," she said.
Around the world there are 75 million to 100 million land mines still buried.
McCasland said there are many ways to detect land mines. The two most popular are having a "very brave" team of people on their hands and knees with tools to stick in the ground at an angle to try to detect them. The other way is to use a metal detector. Both methods take a lot of time and cover very little ground in the time available.
Through CHAMPS, teams are able to send in highly-trained dogs, like Senna, to detect the mines.
According to McCasland, the dogs can cover the area of one and a half football fields in the same time the other methods cover the equivalent of five to seven yards of the field.
McCasland demonstrated how Senna can detect land mines by having a mine grid set up in the gym.
Senna, who is now 8 years old, started when she was 1. She is a Belgian malinois breed that spent a lot of time detecting mines in Afghanistan, and working as a bomb dog in the United Nations. Senna retired from detecting mines a year ago.
"She wants to work. She wants to show off," McCasland told the students, as Senna was getting excited to go through the grid. "She can smell explosives from 8 feet away."
While going through a grid, the dog is very cautious. The dog and handlers work together.
"They do anything to keep each other alive in the mind field," she said. "The dogs are incredible tools."
Since Wyoming sponsored the first dog, there have been 32 dogs sponsored by students in schools from around the country.
"They are the very best in the world," McCasland said. "They are canine heroes."
To learn more about CHAMPS, other dogs like Senna and how to donate/sponsor the program, visit www.marshall-
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