Operating under the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Bureau, the Chemical Detector Dogs (Chem Dogs) will help "improve our capabilities to detect weapons of mass destruction that terrorists may attempt to smuggle into the United States," according to a CBP press release.
"Chem dogs add to our ability to detect and seize chemical weapons at our borders, before they reach intended targets in the interior of the United States. These dogs are helping to protect America and our homeland," stated Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Trained and certified at the Canine Enforcement Training Center, in Virginia, these are the first Chem Dogs ever used to safeguard the nation's borders.
Considered the "Ivy League" of detector dog schools, CBP's Canine Enforcement Training Center has defined the cutting edge of developing new detector dog capabilities to enhance and broaden the use of dogs for enforcement and security missions. The Center currently "graduates" about 100 new enforcement dogs annually.
Detector dogs were first introduced by U.S. Customs on a wide scale in 1970 as part of a the effort to intercept narcotics being smuggled through major air/sea and land border ports. The more than 9,400 federal enforcement dogs now on duty were responsible for 4,980 arrests during 2002.
Chem Dogs can detect chemical weapons while they are still concealed and, most importantly, before they are released into the atmosphere. The dogs are trained to sniff out specific odors, non-lethal components of a chemical. When they detect the learned odor they alert the handler, trace the odor back to the source and respond by sitting.
All detector dogs must be focused and playful to train in detecting contraband. Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds are some of the breeds that have proven successful in detector dog roles.