Border security going to the dogs

| 6/17/2003

Truckers who cross U.S. border areas may be stopped and their rigs sniffed out by dogs trained to detect terrorists trying to smuggle chemicals.

The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which oversees roughly 300 entry points, began placing some of the dogs a couple of months ago, the bureau's commissioner, Robert Bonner, recently said.

“As part of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection is constantly striving to improve our capabilities to detect weapons of mass destruction that terrorists may attempt to smuggle into the United States," Bonner said.

Bonner added, "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."

The dogs, which move from one border area to another, are trained to detect various odors associated with a range of deadly chemicals, including sarin gas, nerve gas and cyanide, which might be hidden in containers or other objects that terrorists try to smuggle past customs.

Customs officials said that $2 million has been made available to train the chemical-sniffing dogs: $1 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, and another $1 million, for fiscal year 2004, which begins the next day, The Associated Press reported.

Sporting breed dogs, such as Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, a kind of shepherd, are used because they are easy to train and good around people, officials said. Training started around a year ago. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has roughly 1,200 dogs – including the new group.