Homeland Security Sniffing Dogs Need Lots Of Stamina


To join the ranks of those defending Washington State’s ferries and ports against terrorists, dogs are expected to pull four 10-hour shifts a week, scan for the ingredients that make up more than 1,000 explosives and sit, not dig, when they sniff out something, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Not every dog is cut out for homeland security. A third of the canine candidates for the Washington State Patrol’s Explosive K9 unit wash out, usually because they lack the drive to smell-check an endless stream of cars and trucks. “It’s a lot to ask of a dog,” said Trooper Rob Richey, one of the agency’s three K9 trainers. “The dog has to have a lot of stamina. We’re asking them to work for hours on end.”

For the border collies, Labrador retrievers, Belgian Malinois and others that graduate from the 12-week bomb-detection program, the transition from pound to police work lands them on the front lines of the fight against terrorism. The State Patrol now has more than two dozen bomb-sniffing dogs, and more four-legged sentries are coming out of the academy each year. The next class is set to graduate in May. The bomb-sniffing teams have been called to check out many threats, though none has materialized. They have nabbed people illegally carrying fireworks on board ferries and spurred the arrests of a few felons caught packing guns. “You can train a dog to detect anything that has a scent,” said Larry Myers, a professor at Auburn University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. The animals have about 20 to 40 times more receptor cells in their nasal cavities than humans do. Researchers are trying to model the dog’s nose with technology, but Myers said, “There’s nothing that’s going to take the place of a dog in operation.”

Link: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/262493_bombdogs10.html

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