Canine program surpasses 425 teams nationwide with latest group of 11 graduates

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National Press Release
Thursday, September 7, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today the graduation of 11 members of its National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program.  The teams are assigned to airports in West Palm Beach, Fla.; St Louis; Ontario, Calif.; San Juan, P.R.; and Cleveland; and the mass transit system in Philadelphia.

Number of Canine Teams Have More Than Doubled Since September 11, 2001

With this latest group of graduates, the program has added more than 250 teams since September 11, 2001 and now totals more than 425 teams in 75-plus airports and 11 mass transit systems.

“To more than double the number of TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams working at airports and mass transit systems nationwide since 9/11 is a significant accomplishment,” said Bill Switzer, TSA Federal Security Director at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and commencement exercise speaker. “Providing these critical assets, ongoing support and collaboration to our partners at police departments all over the country has made transportation systems and the American traveling public safer.”

The significant expansion of the program coincides with a strategy shift in the use of explosives detection canine teams.  The original intent of the program, designed in the early 1970s after a rash of bomb threats to aircraft, was to deploy certified canine teams to strategic airports nationwide so that if an aircraft received a threat in-flight, it could divert to be searched at an airport with a canine team.  When TSA was created after September 11, 2001, the use of canines expanded greatly to include searching all areas of a transportation system from parking lots, cargo and luggage to the aircraft itself, while also providing a powerful visual deterrent to terrorists.  A further expansion to select mass transit systems began in late 2005 and continues today.

During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills and explosives safety.  Teams spent much of their time searching for explosive training aids in specialized indoor and outdoor training labs that included an aircraft fuselage, a terminal area, cargo warehouse, and a newly created mass transit terminal.  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. Within the next few months, the teams will also undergo a rigorous on-site certification process by TSA evaluators. 

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.