Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Are A Breed Apart
Posted January 23, 2002
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — New airport regulations could force the government to get into the business of breeding dogs.
Hundreds more bomb-sniffing dogs will be needed to walk the terminals of the nation's airports. Once the government takes over airport security, it will be in charge of finding these highly-specialized canines.
At Fayetteville Regional Airport, bomb dogs from the local police department patrol the airport. Larger airports, like
, have a bomb-sniffing dog on staff.
A tremendous amount of effort goes into training the canine cops.
During a training exercise, Don Corrigan, a certified bomb-dog handler, hides an explosive at the Fayetteville Airport. It is the same kind of device police said was found on accused shoebomber Richard Reid.
Within minutes, 2 1/2-year-old "Fox" finds the explosive. The dog lets his handler know by sitting down.
"You want a dog that's calmer, easy to control. They are satisfied at a passive alert by sitting or lying down," Corrigan said.
Corrigan, a Cumberland County sheriff's deputy, is certified through the North America Police Work Dog Association. The certification is similar to Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
Drug dogs train about 16 hours a month. Training for bomb-detection dogs, like Fox, is much more intensive, requiring about 32 hours a month.
By the time the training is over, the dogs can detect a dozen different bomb groups.
"Bomb dogs go into large buildings, do the whole building or the whole aircraft of luggage. That takes time, you have to build stamina," Corrigan said.
The FAA's goal is to add more than 100 new bomb-sniffing teams at the nation's busiest airports.
"If you miss a drug, people get high. If you miss a bomb, people will die. There's a big difference," Corrigan said.
Since Sept. 11, the FAA has received requests from more than 25 airports wanting to join the federal dog program.
Many airports need more than one dog. Because they are taking about 250 breaths a minute when they search, the intensive work tires a dog out in about six hours.
The FAA already has an Explosives Detection Canine Program. It currently has dogs at 39 major airports across the country. The dogs and handlers are trained at the Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
The FAA said that Australia will donate five Labrador puppies so the agency can start its own breeding business.