Taskforce dealing with bomb-sniffing dog shortage to meet in Durham

Local Originals

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – There is a shortage in the United States of dogs trained to detect explosives. That’s a problem. According to Dr. Richard Vargus, who is the Military Working Dog Program Manager for the Department of Defense, there are things a dog can do that technology cannot.

“There is nothing that can replace that military working dog. So, that capability, that commodity, is extremely viable (and) extremely important to our national security mission,” he said.

The American Kennel Club (AKC), breeders, the Department of Defense, federal, and local law enforcement are all coming together in Durham. The AKC is helping breeders with best practices.

“Breed the best two dogs together based on the information and the science that we have, and then give the females the right nutrition so that we enhance the brain of the fetus,” said Dr. Carmen Battaglia with the AKC

“So, when these puppies are born, technically, they could be up to 50 percent smarter than other dogs, which makes them more trainable.”

Scott Thomas, who once worked for the Transportation Security Administration, now serves as a consultant for the AKC. Among the dogs being trained is a 14-week-old puppy named Task.

“By the time they start separating away from mom, we want them to be able to live on their own. We want them to take them everywhere, socialize them, start working obstacle courses, (and) start with old-fashioned actually being able to find things with that nose,” he said.

If all goes well, that nose will go on to help save lives — whether they’re civilian or military lives in America or abroad.

The shortage in bomb-sniffing dogs isn’t exclusive to America.

“The need for these kinds of dogs has just escalated worldwide,” Battaglia explained. “The European countries have brought up the supply. So, over the last 50 years, our country, our government, (and) our police departments relied on European breeders to provide that supply.”

China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are also buying up the European supply. So, the AKC formed a task force four years ago, which is the group coming to Durham.

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