Bristol County Sheriff’s Office
Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts County have announced that they will employ COVID-sniffing K-9s to detect the virus in the same way dogs can detect drugs or explosives.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office said its COVID detection K-9 unit is part of the reason why the state is able to open up.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said, “Bristol County and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have come so far since the pandemic started last year. Today, festivals are happening, restaurants are full and concert venues are packed. We’ve made so much progress, and our new COVID-19 detection program is one way the people of Bristol County can stay ahead of the curve.”
According to a Facebook post by the BCSO, COVID-19 gives off a specific odor that dogs are trained to detect.
Officials thanked the Florida International University’s International Forensic Research Institute for developing the K-9 training program, which is based on a similar program that trained dogs to detect fungus in crops. FIU first used the research to employ dogs to detect COVID on the campus.
The sheriff’s office explained that the FIU used medical masks worn by COVID-positive patients to provide a scent, and then used an ultraviolet light system to kill any contagious parts. The New Bedford Fire Department and local EMS provided the masks.
BCSO Capt. Paul Douglas assured that the program was based on accurate science at a recent canine graduation ceremony. “This is all science. This program was developed by professors, doctors and scientists at FIU, and we couldn’t be more proud or excited to execute it here in Bristol County,” he stated.
The BCSO will now have two dogs specialized in detecting COVID: Huntah and Duke. They are a 9-month-old black lab and a 9-month-old golden lab/retriever mix respectively.
The K-9s can detect all variants of COVID apparently, but officials say the dogs are not a substitute for a COVID test.
Douglas sees the dogs as useful for determining whether or not something may be contaminated. “It’s best to think of it as a decontamination tool,” Capt. Douglas said. “The dogs can detect the COVID odor on a counter or table if it was recently touched by a COVID-positive individual, or even detect the odor on a tissue used by someone with COVID.”
The sheriff’s office also offered the use of their dogs to others in the community such as schools, medical facilities, nursing homes and public safety facilities.