Canine program graduates 11 teams, enhancing explosive detection capability nationwide

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National Press Release
Monday, July 31, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today the graduation of 12 members of its National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. The teams are assigned to mass transit systems in Atlanta and Baltimore, and airports in Philadelphia; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Baltimore; San Antonio; Phoenix and Boise, Idaho.

Officer James Cassidy of the Philadelphia Police Department and his German Shepard, Britt, were honored as the “Top Dog” award winners for their outstanding performance during the class and Officer James Messick of the Boise, Idaho Airport Police Department earned the Distinguished Honor Graduate award for his overall academic achievement.

“These graduates will work in a wide variety of transportation environments, from mass transit cars in Atlanta to airport parking lots, terminals and cargo facilities in Boise, Idaho and Phoenix,” said Jimmy Wooten, TSA Federal Security Director at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and commencement exercise speaker. “The diversity of their operating areas is a testament to the reach of the program and the lengths that the TSA has gone to deploy these valuable assets through our partnerships with law enforcement agencies across the country.”

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, offers 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.