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Calling All Working Dogs
UPDATE! Dept. of Homeland Security looks to recruit 3,000 pups
Belgian Malinois are among the breeds sought by the Department of Homeland Security.

Editor's update: JoAnna Lou gets her wish. The Department of Homeland Security has bowed to pressure and agreed to screen shelter dogs to work as canine federal agents. Many animal welfare advocates, including PETA, cried fowl when the department made the call for increased breeding to supply the “right” sort of dogs. It worked.

 

[Original post: 8/12/10] As the government gears up to protect the country against terrorists, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to expand its canine workforce from 2,000 to 5,000 dogs in the next five years. These pups will also help other government groups such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Coast Guard and the Secret Service.

 
This summer the Department alerted small breeders looking it’s looking for Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois between the ages of 12 to 36 months that are “alert, active, outgoing, confident” and “extremely tolerant of people.”
 
The 150 percent increase may seem like a lot, but many believe that a dog’s skill can’t be replicated, even with modern technology. Although only four percent of the Border Patrol's agents were canine handlers, these teams were credited with 60 percent of drug arrests and 40 percent of all other apprehensions in 2007.
 
Clark Larson, who runs the Customs and Border Protections canine program, says “there is no technology that trumps the cold nose of a dog.” It’s amazing that in the computer-dependant world we live in, sometimes you just can’t beat nature. 
 
It’s always good to see more working dogs. I only wish the department would consider shelter dogs for their canine program. In the past, almost all U.S. Customs dogs were originally from animal shelters. Imagine the impact the department could have on homeless pets if even a fraction of those 3,000 dogs were rescues.

 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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