TSA Changes K-9 Policy, Internet Cries Foul

Enlisting working K-9s to help screen travelers at U.S. airports was probably one of the TSA’s wisest moves. Not only can dogs’ famed sense of smell detect everything from bombs, drugs, and breast cancer, the animals’ cute-factor can go a long way in soothing pre-flight jitters. Moreover, enlisting adorable dogs is good PR for one of the U.S. government’s most maligned agencies.

However, the TSA recently announced changes to its ongoing K-9 policy, and some animal lovers are up in arms.

Screenshot: Twitter/TSA

According to the Washington Post, the agency is planning to prioritize Labs, Golden Retrievers, and other floppy-eared breeds over K-9s with pointy ears, like German Shepherds, using the logic that the former group appears less threatening to kids and travelers.

Naturally, such an edict has the Internet divided, with users leveling charges of “canine racism” towards the TSA on Twitter. Others pointed out that the dogs, who wear vests asking passengers to refrain from petting, aren’t supposed to look friendly. Still more identified barking human agents — not the K-9s – as the real source of airport stress.

Regardless, studies show that German shepherds, despite their steady assist to law enforcement officers over the years, don’t actually have stronger snouts than other breeds. (One TSA study actually found that pugs’ olfactory ability far superior to German Shepherds, though so far nobody’s asked the snub-nosed breed to work the airport shift.)

“No dogs will be pulled off because they have pointy ears,” TSA spokesman James Gregory told the Washington Post. “All the dogs are good — as long as they pass the test,” he said, pointing to the rigorous training involved in becoming a working airport K-9. “At the end of the day, the dog’s going to be out there because they’re qualified, not because of their breed.”

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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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