With bomb-sniffing dogs emerging as a reliable method for screening passenger baggage, security officials plan to double the size of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's canine facility over the next nine months.
As Terminal D opens, other terminals will switch to the automated in-line baggage system, and the airport is expected to need more dogs.
Officials don't know when they'll need more dogs, which are trained by the Transportation Security Administration. But they want to be ready when the time comes. So they're undertaking an $813,225 kennel expansion.
"When the in-line baggage system alarms, the canines are a primary tool TSA relies on," Jim Crites, D/FW's executive vice president of operations, told board members at a committee hearing Tuesday.
D/FW, which has nine dogs, would like to add a three-bay garage for emergency vehicles, 12 semi-enclosed canine kennels, a veterinary care room, a washing/grooming area and a fenced dog run. The expanded 8,000-square-foot facility would also include renovated areas for human handlers.
The D/FW Airport Board is expected to vote on the project at its Thursday meeting.
Bomb-sniffing dogs have been used in some capacity at D/FW since the airport opened in 1974. But the kennels are full, Crites said.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the federal government determined that the dogs were one of the most reliable methods of detecting explosives.
"The dogs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio," TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said. "We have also developed a new breeding program specifically to breed dogs with explosive-detection ability."
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The fourth dog, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois named Iwan, graduated from training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio earlier this month.