Sniffing out trouble: Explosives-detecting dogs train at University of Kentucky

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 28, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The area just outside Rupp Arena was a training facility on Wednesday and it had nothing to do with John Calipari’s team.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms held a training session for various law enforcement agencies in the region, and their canines, as part of its National Odor Recognition Test (NORT) program.

“We have actual explosives and we have distractor odors, and they have to distinguish the difference between an actual odor and a distractor,” said Cody Monday. Monday leads this teaching initiative for ATF.

Training includes cans being placed in a circle and the dogs, led by their handlers, are required to sniff out the cans that contain accelerant odors. There are as many as 25 accelerants in use, and six of those are mandatory. ATF forensic chemists oversee the successful completion of the training, and the dogs are allowed two “false alerts” during the process, meaning they sniffed out the distractor, rather than the actual accelerant.

The way in which explosives can be purchased or concocted changes constantly which is one of the many reasons ATF requires an updated certification for K-9s and handlers by running sessions like this.

“There’s a lot of stuff to update, especially explosives that can be bought over-the-counter. We look at trends to see what is happening around the country with bombings and make sure the dogs are imprinted and know how to find those types of explosives,” Monday explained.

Agencies from all over the region came for Wednesday’s training, including officers with the campus police department at the University of Kentucky, even if the university is usually only needing the dogs to serve as a deterrent.

“You don’t want that day to come, but if it does you want to be ready for it,” said Captain Michael Pope with the UK Police Department.

If that day comes, today’s training session will allow the dogs to sniff it out before a potential catastrophe.

“Some of these handlers have never had the explosives that we have out today, so that’ll be a new thing their dog learned,” Monday added.