Canine program graduates bolster ability to detect explosives at airports, mass transit systems

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National Press Release
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today the graduation of 24 members of its National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. The teams are assigned to mass transit systems in Washington D.C. (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority); Chicago (Chicago Transit Authority) and San Diego (San Diego Trolley, Inc.); and airports in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dayton, Ohio, Ft. Myers, Fla., Buffalo, N.Y., Washington D.C., Norfolk, Va., Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland, Calif.

The classes include the 400th team in the program, Chicago Police Department Officer Pauline Vody and her German Shepherd Eta.

“Reaching the 400th canine team milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved with the program. From our TSA canine support staff to each and every officer partnered with a TSA canine on the street today, they can all take pride in this accomplishment,” said Dave Kontny, NEDCTP’s Director. “The fact that we have grown from 189 teams at 39 airports in 2001 to 412 teams at more than 75 airports and 11 mass transit systems shows the importance of canines in our multi-layered approach to transportation security.”

During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills and explosives safety along with the safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids. Teams spent much of their time searching for explosives in specialized indoor and outdoor training labs that included an aircraft fuselage, a terminal area and a cargo warehouse. The teams also practiced searching luggage and a parking lot filled with vehicles.

Once the teams return to their airports and mass transit systems, they will undergo several hours of proficiency training each week that includes all the sights, sounds and smells associated with these busy environments. Within the next few months, the teams will also undergo a rigorous on-site certification process.

Because canine teams combine excellent mobility with reliable detection rates, their use today has evolved to include searching areas in response to bomb threats at airports and mass transit terminals, and aircraft, trains, luggage, cargo and vehicles, as well as serving as a proven deterrent to would-be terrorists.

The program is a component of TSA’s Federal Air Marshal Service and is a cooperative partnership with participating airports and mass transit systems. TSA provides and trains the canines, in-depth training for the handlers, and partially reimburses the participating agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care. TSA-certified canine teams reflect the core values of the Department of Homeland Security – providing first responders with the right tools, technical assistance and funding to protect our nation's transportation systems.