TSA explosives detection canine retires from his job screening travelers at Reagan National Airport

Local Press Release
Friday, April 19, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va. – Messi, an 8-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, has had his last run as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) passenger screening canine at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The dog is ready to trade in his working vest for afternoons lounging on the sofa.

Messi’s claim to fame is that last year he was featured in the free annual downloadable annual TSA canine calendar. He was featured as the dog of the month for February.

He was clearly born to work for TSA because he enjoys watching airplanes and playing in the grass at nearby Gravelly Point. Messi is a lovable and hard-working dog who has enjoyed playing with a tennis ball after a busy day sniffing for any traces of explosives at the airport. Now he doesn’t have to wait to play with his favorite toy.

After his last morning of sniffing for any traces of explosives at Reagan National Airport this morning, Messi was joined by several of the canine handlers and invited guests to celebrate his retirement at a surprise party. A training aid was concealed in a large room and Messi, along with his handler, Peter, searched the room. When Messi “hit” on the device, he was showered with tennis balls tossed his way by the other canine handlers. Messi was thrilled!

Messi’s “Do Not Pet” patch is removed, marking his official retirement from working status to being a pet. (TSA photo
Messi’s “Do Not Pet” patch is removed, marking his official retirement from working status to being a pet. (TSA photo

Peter then removed Messi’s “Do Not Pet” patch from his harness, thus officially signaling that the dog was no longer a working canine and could be petted. There was no shortage of guests who were eager to pet the newly retired dog.

Peter is adopting Messi in his retirement so the two will continue to stay together. As for Peter, he is shifting gears from being a canine handler to a canine trainer.

TSA trains each of its explosives detection canines at the TSA Canine Training Center, located at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland in San Antonio, Texas. Considered the “Center for Excellence” for explosives detection canine training, the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest explosives detection canine program.

About 300 canines complete the training annually. Each canine recruit spends 16 weeks in training where they meet their handlers, socialize to adapt to busy airport environments, and learn their craft of detecting a variety of explosive odors before reporting to their duty stations.

Messi enjoys a “pupcake” during his retirement party. (TSA photo)
Messi enjoys a “pupcake” during his retirement party. (TSA photo)

TSA has more than 1,000 canine handler teams deployed in support of security and screening operations nationwide. The explosives detection canine teams inspect passengers and all areas in and around terminals. They are so effective at their jobs that other public and private sector law enforcement agencies often request their support for similar security missions.

Each canine and their handler serves as a reliable resource for detecting explosives as well as providing a visible deterrent to terrorism directed towards various types of transportation nodes. Once on duty, these canines work to safeguard passengers and cargo across the nation’s transportation systems.