PDSA Order of Merit to be awarded to outstanding Search and Rescue Dog Zak

photo of Retired Search Dog Zak

Retired Hampshire Search and Rescue Search Dog Zak has been honoured by vet charity PDSA for lifetime service.

Hampshire Search & Rescue dog hander Kev Saunders talks about Search Dog Zak’s devotion to duty

14-year-old border collie Zak, a retired search and rescue dog from Southampton, who, with his owner Kev Saunders, attended more than 300 searches during his 11-year career.

Zak started training at just nine-weeks-old with the voluntary organisation, Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs with Kev, in 2009.

He was trained to search for hurt and distressed missing people, able to cover a search area in a fraction of the time that a human search party could.

He was deployed to his first search just a week after completing his training and has gone on to carry out searches in counties including Hampshire and Dorset.

Zak’s keen senses and quick actions have helped rescue high risk, vulnerable missing people including children, those with dementia, and people with mental health complexities.

Zak’s owner, Kev, was recognised with an MBE for his services to Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs in 2020.

He said: “Zak is my world and absolutely epitomises the important role of search and rescue dogs in the UK. I am unbelievably proud to see him recognised by PDSA in this way as he retires, and to see him put on a pedestal that he wholeheartedly deserves to be on.”

Hampshire Constabulary’s deputy chief constable, Ben Snuggs, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Zak, a long-sanding member of Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs, has been recognised by PDSA in this way.

“I am very clear that with the rescue organisation and its unwavering support, we are far more effective in searching for vulnerable missing people an preventing them from coming to harm.

“We, and the countless individuals he has helped, owe Zak a huge debt of gratitude, and I know that all my colleagues in Hampshire Constabulary will join in celebrating and congratulating Zak and Kev for being honoured with the prestigious PDSA Order of Merit.”

Nina Downing, a vet nurse with PDSA, said Jerry and Zak are both “thoroughly deserving recipients” of the award.

She added: “Zak and Jerry’s close partnership with their owners are wonderful examples of the vital role animals play in supporting our wellbeing and assisting those in need of help to benefit society.”



Photo: Retired Search Dog Zak


Press contacts 

For media enquiries contact Big Wave PR by email hilary@wearebigwavepr.co.uk or telephone 01206 231807. 

Follow the story at @PDSA_HQ and @PDSAPressOffice 

Notes to Editors 

  • For hundreds of thousands of pets, PDSA is a lifeline that prevents the unnecessary pain and suffering that may come from their owners being unable to afford veterinary treatment.  
  • PDSA believes that everyone, no matter what their circumstances, has the right to experience the unique bond, love and companionship that comes from owning a pet. 
  • PDSA receives no government funding its vital veterinary service and is supported by the generosity of the pet-loving public who donate to make sure the charity can be there for a pet when they need help most. 
  • In 2021, the charity provided 1.8 million veterinary treatments to over 370,000 pets in 48 Pet Hospitals in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. 
  • The PDSA Order of Merit, instituted in 2014, is given in recognition for exceptional acts of devotion to their owner or wider society and represents outstanding examples of the special bond that exists between animals and humans. 
  • The PDSA Order of Merit is part of PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme, which was instituted in 1943 by the charity’s founder Maria Dickin, CBE. Then and now, PDSA believes that raising the status of animals in society helps improve the care they receive and their welfare. 
  • To date, 36 animals have been awarded the PDSA Order of Merit – 12 horses and 24 dogs.