Miami International Airport (MIA) says it’s the first U.S. airport to test COVID-19-sniffing dogs through a new pilot program. The Miami-Dade Aviation Department is partnering with the Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) at Florida International University (FIU) to host a 30-day COVID-19 detector dog pilot program at MIA.
ABC Denver reported that everyday travelers visiting the airport may not come in contact with the detector dogs, though. The airport says the canines are deployed at an employee security checkpoint. There are two dogs in the pilot program at MIA – Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch Shepherd.
They’ve been trained to alert to the scent of COVID-19. MIA says the dogs have the potential to immediately detect and respond to the coronavirus in public spaces like airports. USA Today reports: “Dogs could be more sensitive than some of our instruments and detect the virus sooner,” Kenneth Furton, provost at Florida International University and scent-detection scholar, told USA TODAY.
Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch Shepherd, have already made two possible alerts. One employee was unable to be tested and the second employee had a negative PCR test, but had recently gotten over the virus, according to Furton.
The dogs have a 96% to 99% detection rate and were quick learners, which Furton credits with previous training they received to detect laurel wilt, a fungus that can kill certain trees. “If you’re training a brand new dog, it can take two or three months,” Furton said. “It only took two or three days for these dogs and three weeks for them to become proficient.”