U.S. Customs Bureau Enlists Dogs in War on Terror

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Chemical-Detection Canines

At ports and borders throughout the United States, specially trained dogs are using their powerful sense of smell to sniff out lethal chemicals that terrorists may attempt to smuggle into the country.

"We wanted to see how we could utilize the dogs to protect America," said Lee Titus, director of the Canine Enforcement Program for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). "So we developed a curriculum and program to have our dogs detect certain chemicals that could be used in weapons for mass destruction."

Late last January, several chemical-detection canines began work in the field alongside their handlers. For national security reasons, Titus said, the exact number of dogs, and the locations where they are being used, could not be revealed.

The highly trained Belgian malinoises, German shepherds, and Labrador retrievers, are the first detection dogs of their kind and went through several weeks of training at CBP's Canine Enforcement Training Center in Virginia, which is touted as the Ivy League of detector-dog schools.

At the center, these four-footed agents are taught to sniff out specific, non-lethal components of a chemical. When an odor is discovered, such as sarin or cyanide, the canine alerts the human handler, goes to the source and sits. The dog's job is then done, said Titus, and a hazardous material team is called in.

The agency also uses dogs to detect narcotics, explosives, and currency.

The CBP's training center has been on the cutting edge of developing new detector-dog capabilities for enforcement and security missions at the more than 300 ports and land border entry points into the United States. More than 100 canine teams are trained each year at the facility.

The CBP first used detector dogs in 1970 in an effort to stop drugs from being smuggled into the country.

Nationalgeographic.com Resources on Dogs

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Dogs of War: Inside the U.S. Military's Canine Corps
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Hollywood Gives Stray Dogs New Leash on Life
A Love Story: Our Bond With Dogs from National Geographic magazine
"Detector Dogs" Sniff Out Smugglers for U.S. Customs
Bear Dogs on Patrol for Problem Grizzlies
Veterans: Dogs of War Deserve a Memorial
Therapy Dogs Seem to Boost Health of Sick and Lonely
Life Is Serious Mission for Rescue Dogs
Crisis-Response Dogs Offer Comfort After Tragedy
Dogs Are "True Heroes" of Iditarod, Race Champ Says
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Science and Dogs
Scientists Start Deciphering Dog Genome
Human Gestures Fed Dogs' Domestication
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National Geographic magazine's "Wolf to Woof: The Evolution of Dogs"

News and Features About Other Canids
Red Wolves Back From Extinction In U.S. Wild
Thriving Gray Wolf May Come Off U.S. Endangered List
Coyotes Now at Home in Eastern U.S.

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