Terror experts, dog breeders rally to address shortage of local bomb-sniffing dogs

Terrorism experts, law enforcement officials, U.S. military officials and dog breeders will gather in a Durham, N.C., hotel ballroom next week to address a dangerous national security shortage: a shortage of high-quality U.S.-bred intelligence dogs.

The agenda includes sessions such as “Federal Procurement of Detection Dogs,” “National Standards and Certification for Explosive Detection Dogs,” and “Career Options for Detection Dogs: Detection Options and Specializations.”

But this year, the annual gathering, which has been held since 2017, has an added sense of urgency. Terrorism is on the rise, creating more demand for detection dogs – a shortage of US-bred dogs available to detect explosives remains stubbornly persistent. All told, the US government buys about 90 percent of its intelligence dogs from Europe and other regions. The best dogs are kept for use in Europe, where the United States competes with military rivals Russia and China for the same dogs.

The government’s first in-depth examination of domestically bred working dogs in 15 years warned last year that the U.S. is falling dangerously short for this key front-line defense against terrorist attacks and critical security tasks such as bomb-sniffing and drug interdiction.

The federal government “has faced a chronic shortage of domestically bred working dogs that can be used by both the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. As both peer and near-peer adversaries become more adept at evading detection systems, working dogs are needed to address security vulnerabilities steadily increased.

“The lack of a strong domestic supply of working dogs creates increased risk in the supply chain and could threaten the ability of departments and agencies that use working dogs to maintain readiness in the event of a dispute or prolonged interruption of supply from foreign markets” 157. -page report closed.

The federal government currently maintains approximately 5,000 service dogs in four departments—Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State. But only 7 percent is grown in the country, and the rest is imported.

The American Kennel Club created the Validation Dog Task Force in 2016 to help address the issue. The task force interviewed key stakeholders involved in explosives detection, including experts from academia, government, military, police, training and livestock. Subsequently, the AKC and others began initiatives aimed at developing a local program for dog detection.

These include the Patriot Puppy Program, which provides one-on-one assistance to breeders of Labrador Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers and other sporting dogs who are interested in learning how to raise a puppy suitable for advanced training as a detection dog. Auburn University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania are also developing their own programs to improve local livestock. The Department of Defense operates a modest breeding program in kennels at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. And in late 2021, Congress authorized a pilot program to improve access to working dogs bred in the United States.

But these concerted efforts are not enough to overcome the problem, which is driven by the government’s opaque procurement process and unclear requirements.

Many local dog breeders have the ability to produce exceptional working dogs, the government report says, but “the government’s burdensome procurement process discourages vendors from supplying dogs to the public sector of the market. The non-standard requirements, evaluation system and most importantly the uncertainty of the government’s demand for future working dogs make it difficult for vendors to continue working with the government.”

The conference on search dogs comes after a series of reports warned of a dangerous rise in domestic terrorism. One of the most notable was written by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Security.

“According to new CSIS data, there has been a significant increase in the number of domestic terrorist attacks and plans for demonstrations in the United States,” the organization said, adding that “the most common targets of attacks are the government, military and law enforcement agencies.” agencies increasingly at the center of domestic terrorism by extremists of all ideologies.

With American lives in the balance, there has never been a more critical time to come together and address this national security deficit.

Sheila Goffe is the vice president of government relations for the American Kennel Club.

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