Sniffer Dogs: TSA Alternative Screening?

Next time you take a plane, would you rather be viewed naked on a body screening device, get an intrusive pat down, or have a...

Maria Goodavage  |  Dec 1st 2010


Next time you take a plane, would you rather be viewed naked on a body screening device, get an intrusive pat down, or have a happy dog give you a sniff as she walks past you in line?

The Christian Science Monitor reports that some security analysts think dogs would be an excellent alternative to what’s out there now.

“Dogs would be a wonderful solution,” Jeffrey Price, co-author of a textbook on aviation security and chief of Leading Edge Strategies, a security consulting firm in Denver, told the Monitor. “They’re much friendlier than some of the current processes and yet, if you’re hiding something, the last thing you want to see is a dog.”

More than 750 TSA-certified explosive detection dogs are hard at work in mass transit systems, airports and cargo facilities, says a TSA spokesman. But don’t expect the dog treatment anytime soon at an airport, the TSA says.

Why? According to the Monitor article, too many people are scared of dogs, or have concerns about allergies. Training a dog and handler can take 10 weeks. And dogs can be effective for only one or two 30-minute sessions per work day, some say. Boredom sets in after that, and you don’t want a bored explosives dog. And finally, dogs aren’t perfect. They have missed explosives, and they give false positives. (What? The current system is infallible? Who knew?!)

But look at the benefits. According to the article, “…dogs’ noses are as sensitive as any mechanical explosive detector now deployed and can detect trace amounts of scores of explosive vapors. Unlike machines, a dog can track a suspicious scent to the source. They also work cheap for a little kibble and the praise of their handlers. Bomb-sniffing dogs are not necessarily breeds that present a fearsome posture to travelers, but include beagles, Labrador retrievers, and familiar guard dogs such as the Belgian Malinois.”

The Christian Science Monitor piece is a good one. Check it out if you have time. Either way, let us know if you’d rather be viewed buck naked (albeit from another room, and in black and white and not totally anatomically accurately), searched and groped, or sniffed by a passing dog.