SAN ANTONIO — Officials at the Transportation Security Administration’s National Canine Training Center here have adopted a canine with the intention of training it in explosives detection after a nearby dog training operation was shuttered by law enforcement.
A dog training operation in San Antonio was closed by law enforcement officials in early August, resulting in the necessary removal of dozens of dogs from the facility. Several dogs were returned to their owners. The remaining canines were removed by the City of San Antonio’s Animal Care Services, the city’s local animal shelter.
When TSA officials were informed of the situation, they offered to test three of the impacted canines. After reviewing the three canines, TSA determined that one, a 2-year-old brown and black Belgian Malinois, would be a good candidate to be trained in explosives detection.
“It was a most unusual circumstance, and we were notified that there might be some dogs that met the criteria that we adhere to in selecting dogs to meet the TSA mission,” said Christopher Shelton, who oversees TSA’s Canine Training Center, which is located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “We looked at several dogs and selected Kora, who we think has the right temperament, drive and build that should take well to the skills we will teach her to become paired with a canine handler and eventually become a certified TSA explosives detection canine.”
TSA trains and deploys both TSA-led and state and local law enforcement-led canine teams in support of day-to-day activities that protect the transportation domain and provide a visible deterrent and efficient detection capability to deter terrorism. Annually, TSA trains about 350 canine teams per year to operate in the aviation, multimodal, mass transit, and cargo environments.
During the course of the next few months, Kora and her new handler “will need to demonstrate proficiency in four key elements: the canine’s ability to recognize explosives odors, the handler’s ability to interpret the canine’s change of behavior, the handler’s ability to conduct logical and systematic searches and the team’s ability to locate the explosives odor source,” Shelton said.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officers from across the country travel to San Antonio to take the 10- to 12-week TSA canine handler courses. They are paired with a canine teammate and undergo strenuous training. These very effective, mobile teams can quickly locate and identify dangerous materials that may present a threat to transportation systems. The canines are often seen working in some of the nation’s largest airports.
In early 2016, TSA dedicated the canine training facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The new facility, which is in use today, was designed to support the mission to provide, train and certify highly effective explosives detection canine teams. The 25,000 square-foot facility has seven classrooms, an auditorium and administrative space, along a courtyard. The building was a partnership among TSA, JBSA-Lackland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the facility in a little more than a year.
TSA has been training canines in explosives detection since 2001. There are approximately 1,000 explosives detection canines supporting the TSA mission in transportation venues across the country.