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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Crime

Molly Line

Boston, MA

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Dogs Catch the Scent of Danger

May 5, 2010 - 2:56 PM | by: Molly Line

In these days of heightened security it is often highly trained dogs that catch the scent of danger before people zero in on trouble.

In the wake of threats, K-9 law enforcement teams are often deployed in areas that experts deem attractive targets to terrorists. Train stations, airports and prominent public gathering spaces, like New York City’s Times Square, are just a few areas you’ll see the dogs and their handlers.

This week more than 75 dog and trainer teams are undergoing explosive detection training at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. The Massachusetts National Guard Training ground provides realistic facilities that allow the handlers and their dogs to get near real-life experience.

The International Police Work Dog Association (IPWDA) is providing the training and certification to teams from across the country, Canada and Bermuda.

“We know, since 9/11, terrorism is always on the forefront, and the latest incident in New York. The focus has always been on preventing terrorism and this is really the first line of defense with the dogs,” said Larry Culbert, a dog trainer who sits on the executive board of IPWDA. “They’re able to detect minute odors that there is no machine out their to this date that can detect what the dog can detect.”

Tyler Clarke, a detective from Reno, Nevada is a master trainer with the IPWDA and says the dogs, which can be trained to hunt multiple kinds of explosive material and drugs, have irreplaceable talents that can’t be duplicated by technology.

“I think they’re probably one of the most important tools that we have on the front line of defense of our country,” said Clarke. “It can happen at anytime at any place. I know New York is a huge target but, for me, smaller areas, little rural areas of Nevada are a target. Rural areas in other states are a target. It important that we have these dogs spread across the United States.”

We caught up with Deputy Kevin Howell with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts and his dog Ava. The two of them have been a team for about a year and a half, answering calls for court sweeps and bomb threats.

“Ava’s quite the unique personality,” said Howell. “She’s crazy for the work. She loves the work. She loves the work more than she loves people. She’s a great people person but when it’s time to work she wants to work and that all she wants to do, non-stop.”

“We’re out there keeping you guys safe, that’s the bottom line. We’re out there preventing disasters from happening. A lot of people may think it’s too much but it’s a deterrent and that’s why we’re there,” said Howell.