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Hungary's rescue dog service bitten by economic crisis

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Hungary's rescue dog service bitten by economic crisis
Copyright  ACHMAD IBRAHIM/AP
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Lora is a determined young rescue dog who is in training at the Pest County Rescue Research Service just outside the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

When Euronews visited the service she was scouring a waste ground full of bits of masonry and pipes - a terrain that has been specially set out to resemble the rubble and building debris after an earthquake has hit.

Her task is to find a hidden person, just as she would in the aftermath of an earthquake. It seems like a simple task for the dog as she easily locates her handler who is hiding in a large pipe, but she still has more demanding training to complete.

"Training a dog takes two whole years. We train them for three to four hours per day during the week, and on the weekends, when the whole team is there, it can even take up to six to seven hours," said Tímea Balázs-Vidáts, one of the dog handlers.

Every so often, the dogs are sent into very demanding situations in faraway countries.

They've helped find earthquake victims in northern Pakistan as well as people caught up in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

But since the pandemic and the economic crisis, the service has found itself in financial trouble.

The lion's share of its income comes from private donations, which have significantly decreased because of the recent economic crisis.

The organisation is still able to help when there is an emergency, but it can no longer develop or plan the future.

Polly is another rescue dog who helps respond to emergencies closer to home.

Along with 17 other dogs, she helped rescue about 150 people last year who found themselves in difficulty in Hungary.

Hikers who've got lost in the mountains, or even people with dementia and other mental health conditions who have just lost their way, have all been very relieved to be found by a friendly dog wagging its tail.

While a team of 35 people works on a voluntary basis, helping Hungarian police and firefighters, training the dogs takes a lot more time, energy and money.