Detector Dogs Have New Role in Airports

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Studies have demonstrated that detector dogs are one of the most reliable tools available to identify substances based on the odors they emit. Previous studies include demonstrating that detector dogs can reliably detect persons that have diseases, such as diabetes, epilepsy, and certain cancers. Detector dogs have the potential for immediate detection and response to the virus in public spaces like airports. A new option currently under testing is COVID-19 sniffing canines.

Miami International Airport (MIA) is now testing detector dogs specially trained with protocols created by the Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) at Florida International University (FIU).

The 30-day COVID-19 detector dog pilot program is the first in a U.S. airport. The dogs are deployed at an employee security checkpoint.

After hundreds of training sessions at FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus in Miami this year, the detector dogs achieved accuracy rates from 96 to 99 percent for detecting COVID-19 in published peer-reviewed, double-blind trials. After the pilot program ends, FIU will continue to work on the accuracy and specificity, which will assist in COVID variant detection, of the canine following scientifically validated methods.

The two dogs in the pilot program at MIA have been trained to alert to the scent of COVID-19. The virus causes metabolic changes in a person that result in the production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The VOCs are excreted by a person’s breath and sweat, producing a scent that trained dogs can detect. The metabolic changes are common for all people, regardless of their individual scents. If a dog indicates an individual is carrying the odor of the virus, that person is directed to get a rapid COVID test, as reported by It will be interesting to see if the procedure gains momentum in other airports around the world