It’s Super Bowl Sunday! It’s the second biggest eating day of the year with parties galore, multi-million dollar commercials shown exclusively for the game, and this year’s half-time act is The Who. Even those like me who don’t know the difference between a touchdown and a field goal, will be watching the game on TV.
But not everybody participating in the Super Bowl is a football player, a fan, or a TV camera person. Working the game are the bomb-sniffing dogs of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). These K-9 teams are working side-by-side with other federal, state and local law-enforcement officers to keep the football teams and fans safe throughout this event. These very special teams of trained dogs and their handlers are working to prevent any terrorists or criminal lunatics from planting explosives in or near the Sun Life Stadium in Miami. These are the best canine teams in the country, and they have been training and preparing all year for this event.
ATF’s program, which began in 1986, uses only Labrador Retrievers. The dogs are supplied by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the Guide Dog Foundation, and Canine Companions for Independence. These dogs are used because they are totally at ease in crowds. They attend a 10-week training program with their handlers that are conducted at the ATF Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia. The dogs are taught what scents to alert their handlers to gunpowder, firearms, and a variety of explosives and components that could be used to make a bomb. Handlers learn what clues the dog gives when he scents one of these components and how to read the dog’s alerts. Once the K-9 teams complete the ATF basic training course, they begin their field work and continue to train on a daily basis.
Any major event the draws large crowds also demands the presence of the ATF K-9 Teams. They are routinely used in criminal investigations and at high profile security events where their expertise is needed. The ATF has also used its explosives detecting teams at other special events including the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the Presidential Inauguration, the G-8, the World Series, NASCAR, and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
So serve up the chili, pretzels, cheese and crackers, enjoy the game and may your favorite team be the winner. Just keep in mind that patrolling along the 50 yard line, in and around the stadium are specially trained dogs helping to keep the event safe.