Four-legged Lab gives assistance to ATF
ATF officials want to expand the program because trained dogs are far more proficient
than computer systems and X-ray detection technology in preventing and solving arson and
explosives cases. ATF has asked Congress for $3.9 million for CEDP for fiscal 1998.
Although ATF and other federal law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on
computer modeling and data analysis techniques to investigate crimes, on the front end
nothing beats a dog's nose, officers contend.
"Technology is getting better, but a dog can be infinitely more helpful,"
ATF director John Magaw told the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month.
"The poor dog is beaten up flying all over the country," Magaw said of
Charlie's cross-country flights to help federal, state and local law enforcement agents.
"These dogs can identify 19,000 explosives compositions; technology cannot. They
can distinguish between black smoke and white smoke; technology cannot. And the dogs are
mobile whereas a lot of the machines that use detection technology are stationary,"
one ATF official said in an interview.
ATF has spent $3.5 million of its budget this year to build a state-of-the-art
training center inside the Customs Service's 250-acre Canine Enforcement Training Center
in Front Royal, Va. ATF officials hope the facility will be ready next year.
The number of canines ATF will train depends on funding. ATF officials said they
already have a waiting list of state and local officials who want to attend the training.
Dogs and handlers will endure 10-week training sessions.
And sorry, Fido, but only Labrador retrievers need apply for CEDP work. "This
breed is hearty, intelligent, can readily adapt to changing environments and possesses a
nonaggressive disposition that is necessary for the required work," Magaw noted in
his Senate Appropriations testimony.
ATF's canine training program for domestic use has been limited to only arson
By 1990 the program had grown so popular the State Department contracted ATF to
train canines for explosives detection work for many foreign governments, using 200 dogs,
ATF officials said.