12/30/2004

Metro Police to Add Three Dogs to K-9 Bomb-Sniffer Unit

The Associated Press

Metro is increasing its force of bomb-sniffing dogs.

Metro Transit Police will have three more dogs in the K-9 unit after they graduate next week from an 11-week training course.

Police started using patrol dogs in 1989 and later added bomb-sniffing dogs. They also have drug-sniffing dogs, but declined to give specific numbers.

Dog trainer and handler Officer William Potts, who also is a bomb technician, said the need for the dogs has increased because the Washington area and the subway system are potential terrorist targets.

During a trial run yesterday at the Braddock Road station in Alexandria, a black Labrador took a couple of minutes to find 8 ounces of TNT hidden in a newspaper box, but a yellow Lab took 40 seconds to sniff out and sit beside a plastic explosive stuck under a water fountain.

The dogs can identify 21 odors that could be explosives, but handlers say the air flow may determine whether the canine picks up a scent.

"It's not a foolproof way, but it's very good," said Deputy Wendy Stommel of the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office. Her Lab is in the same graduating class.

One of the Metro dogs came from a shelter. Another was donated, and the third cost $400. Officer Potts said shelters are a good place to find bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs.

That doesn't work for patrol dogs, with police spending about $3,000 for the specially bred canines. Officer Potts said patrol dogs need to have certain personality traits that are hard to find in pounds.

Bomb-and drug-sniffing dogs, on the other hand, need to love playing fetch, sniff and search.

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