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TSA expanding national explosives detection canine teams to mass transit and commuter rail systems

(The Transportation Security Administration issued the following news release on September 28.)

WASHINGTON -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today the expansion of the National Explosive Detection Canine Team Program to 10 mass transit and commuter rail systems. The 10 systems are: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH), Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) and San Diego Trolley, Inc. (SDTI).

Law enforcement officers from the 10 systems will attend the TSA Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course beginning in October. During the 10-week course, handlers will be matched with a TSA canine and trained in proper dog handling and search techniques. Upon graduation, the teams will return to their systems for local training, familiarization and certification.

"Expanding the canine program to mass transit and commuter rail systems allows TSA to partner with local resources to protect this critical piece of the transportation network," said Kip Hawley, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA. "These teams are a mobile and efficient method for identifying explosive materials and they can be quickly deployed to address a variety of situations."

TSA primarily uses German Shepherds, Belgian Malanois and Labrador Retrievers for the program. These dogs are usually obtained from breeders in the United States and Europe. These breeds are chosen for their temperament and keen sensory capabilities. Individual dogs selected for the program must undergo exacting pre-acceptance screening to prove they are healthy, smart, highly motivated, and able to detect the necessary odors. TSA also operates a breeding program of Labrador Retrievers at Lackland Air Force Base.

The TSA Explosives Detection Canine Team Program is a cooperative partnership that until this deployment has focused primarily on airports. TSA pays to train the canine teams, provides in-depth training for the handler, and partially reimburses the participating law enforcement agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care. TSA has deployed over 350 canine teams to airports nationwide since its inception. The TSA-certified canine teams reflect the core values of the Department of Homeland Security -- providing first responders with the right tools, technical assistance and funding to protect our nation.

"We look forward to establishing the same successful partnerships with the mass transit and commuter rail systems that we enjoy with our industry partners in aviation," said Dave Kontny, Director of the program. "By simultaneously deploying highly trained, TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams in these two modes of transportation, we will have assisted local law enforcement agencies in bolstering security for our nation's traveling public."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

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