Anyone who has flown recently knows that TSA is no joke. It seems that each year the Transportation Security Administration cracks down even more on airport security. This is a stressful job, and TSA workers have to take their responsibilities seriously in order to keep the hundreds of passengers that come through the airport daily safe.
While the TSA workers might sometimes seem abrupt or stressed out, they actually care a lot about their customers. They are even taking measures to make their security dogs more customer-friendly.
According to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, the administration is shifting its standards for the canine employees. “We’ve made a conscious effort in TSA…to use floppy ear dogs,” he shared with the Washington Examiner during a tour at the Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.
This might seem like a silly change, but it actually comes from a place of compassion. “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy ear dogs is just better,” Pekoske explained. “It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”
It might seem counterintuitive that pointy ear dogs would scare children. After all, dogs are adorable and loving. While this might be true, big dogs can also be intimidating to little kids. Michael Bilello, TSA’s assistant administrator for strategic communication and public affairs, clarified the decision in an interview with People.
“Pointy-eared dogs can be a little ominous, a little intimidating — you generally see that with police dogs or tactical dogs,” Bilello informed his viewers.
You might think that intimidation was part of the point of having security dogs; after all, anyone who tried to smuggle drugs would surely be discouraged by the courageous canines. According to Bilello, however, this is not TSA’s goal. Rather, the administration wants to foster a pleasant environment so that travelers can carry out their plans without any problems.
“What we’re looking to do is employ more floppy-eared dogs because they’re just not as intimidating. They’re a little more inviting and welcoming. That’s what the airport environment is about.”
TSA has already made a huge effort to employ more children-friendly pups. Roughly 80% of the administration’s 1,200 dogs have droopy ears, leaving only 20% with cone-shaped ears.
Despite these statistics, TSA does not plan to ban or phase out dogs with cone shaped ears. According to Christopher Shelton, branch manager of the TSA canine training center in San Antonio, Texas, the administration considers three main factors when determining whether or not a dog will make the cut: the dog’s health, ability and willingness to sniff out certain scents, and social skills in dealing with humans.
While TSA will try to hire more floppy ear dogs in the upcoming years, these three criteria will remain the administration’s top priorities. It is far more important to have a dog who is actually nice to people than to have one who only seems nicer to people.
80% of the dogs TSA has acquired in the past year have been from sporting breeds. Shelton claims that this is because these types of dogs are more common among breeders, and these breeders are the administration’s main source of canine workers.
The administration utilizes 5 types of sporting breeds for its program: Labrador Retrievers, German Short-haired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas, and Golden Retrievers. The only types of pointy ear dogs in use are the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois.
While TSA is making a conscious effort to hire more sporting breeds to better align with public approval, this was not an official decision. TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein states that the shift was the result of an informal, internal decision rather than an officially documented change.
These incredible canines do so much to keep our airports safe. One third of the dogs hired by TSA are responsible for screening passengers. The other two thirds smell for explosives on baggage. These pups are certified and can even work with local law enforcement in case of an emergency.
“If there’s a bomb scare somewhere else in that town, they’ll pull that dog,” Shelton shares. “We train them at our expense. We provide the dogs.”
Training a TSA dog is no easy task. The cost of training a dog and his human can range from $26,000 to $42,000. Given that there are about 1,200 dogs on TSA staff, it’s safe to say that this organization spends A LOT of money on its canine workforce.
Nationwide, TSA works with 100 local law enforcement departments. These trained doggies are not only vital to our air-traffic system, but they are invaluable to our police administrations. It’s no wonder it costs so much to train each fluffy employee.
Of course, TSA does not want airport customers petting the dogs on duty. They do, however, provide information cards on each pup so that anyone dying to show the dogs some love can learn a little more about them. What a cute way to make customers feel more informed!
TSA workers are tasked with quite a stressful dog. While it might sometimes seem like the stress can be overwhelming, taking measures like this proves that the administration does care about customer comfort and safety.
Next time you find yourself at the airport, keep your eyes peeled for more floppy ear pups.
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Source: Daily Wire