Explosive-detecting dogs introduced in British airports to screen cargo

The dogs have undertaken a rigorous new training programme set out by the UK Government to prepare them for cargo screening.

SNIFFING IT OUT: Dogs are already used by airports to sniff out contraband

The UK Government has announced dogs capable of detecting minute traces of explosives concealed in air freight are being deployed in cargo sheds.

Free-running explosive-detecting dogs (FREDDs) working with their human handlers are being used to check freight for a range of explosive materials.

Each animal has undergone 12 months of rigorous training to achieve Government certification before being set to work. As they carry out their operational duties they will go through a regular quality assurance programme.

In 2016, goods worth £178 billion were transported by air between the UK and non-EU countries. These detection dogs have the potential to play a vital role in helping to ensure such cargo is safe to fly.

Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister, said: “Free-running explosive-detecting dogs are the latest addition to the Government’s multi-layered approach to tackling potential aviation security threats.

“The ability of these highly-skilled dogs to detect small amounts of vapour from explosives hidden in cargo will bolster our existing rigorous security methods, and I was really impressed to see them in action.

“The UK’s aviation security standards are already among the best in the world and we will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to ensure that passengers remain protected.”

Dogs are already used in a variety of ways at UK airports, for example, by helping police to identify criminals and prevent illegal activity.

In April, the Government published its aviation strategy next steps document, setting out its plans for the future of the industry. This involved a commitment to ensure that the UK is equipped to respond to changing threats.

While all cargo is made secure before it is allowed on to aircraft, the dogs offer the ability to detect minute traces of vapour from concealed explosives. This provides a high level of scrutiny as well as a highly mobile and time-saving way of screening freight, 2.4 million tonnes of which passed through the UK’s airports in 2016.

The dogs are already operating in multiple airports, and more will be deployed around the country as the number of approved canines’ increases.

Both the certification and quality assurance process that the dogs will need to go through is set by the Department for Transport (DfT) which will share oversight with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA will have a further responsibility ensuring those who operate the dogs do so in line with the standards set out by the DfT.

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