TSA To Use Floppy-Eared Dogs At Airports Because They Look Less Scary

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Floppy is in, according to the United States Transportation Security Administration, and they’re looking for more floppy-eared dogs to help with airport screenings this year.

Out with the pointy, in with the floppy? Is that how the saying goes? According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), that’s what’s happening in 2019, as they’re looking to employ more ‘floppy-eared’ dogs for their screening. Why? Because according to TSA administrator David Pekoske, pointy-eared dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois scare children more than their floppy-eared counterparts like Golden and Labrador Retrievers.

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Pekoske says they are making a ‘conscious effort’ to use more floppy-eared dogs because they tend to put people more at ease than do pointy-eared dogs.

Michelle Bilello is with the TSA and says they are not getting rid of dogs with pointed ears altogether right now, but over the next few years hope to transition to employing more floppy-eared dogs for screenings so they are less ominous and ‘police-like.’ She says that they want the airport environment to feel more inviting and welcoming, and floppy-eared dogs tend to do that more.

Pekoske says that at the core, a capable and trained dog is the most important factor and asset, and so they’ll be looking at a dog’s competence when bringing in canines. But ears-to-ears apples-to-apples, they’ll give more preference to dogs with floppy ears.

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There are about 350 canine teams a year that the TSA trains and there are over 900 teams that sniff cargo or baggage or screen travelers. A third of those dogs engage with passengers. TSA breeds seven breeds of dogs–German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, German Shorthaired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas and Golden Retrievers. The German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have pointy ears.

Currently, 80% of the TSA’s dogs already have floppy ears, so it won’t be a huge transition.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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