JFK airport has gone to the dogs. NBC 4 New York was given behind-the-scenes access with trained canines who work side by side with officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to patrol and safeguard the airport.
Tobi, Ranchez, Grill, and Jasper are just a few of the dogs on the furry front lines of defense at Kennedy. While these dogs may come in all shapes and sizes they have a common thread, they are all on a mission to keep passengers safe.
The dogs are trained to sniff out illegal guns, drugs, money and food -- some of these dogs have a nose for meats, cheeses, and produce.
Jasper, a beagle, is on the look-out for diseases and insects hitching a ride in food from foreign countries. Jasper and his canine colleagues are known as passive responders because when they detect something in someone's luggage they don't paw at it or bark. They sit to alert their handlers
In just minutes, Jasper hit on nearly a dozen bags carrying potentially potent produce or meat. Jasper found a banana inside Alan Schlamp’s luggage.
“I'm ok with it,” said the weary traveler. Customs agents took the foreign fruit Alan was given on his international flight but this traveler took the momentary inconvenience in stride.
“I'll know next time not to accept a banana on an airplane,” said Schlamp.
“Scientists say Jasper's nose is a thousand times stronger than ours,” said Jim Armstrong, the supervisory CBP's Agriculture Canine Specialist.
“Our agriculture in America is a giant industry. A multi-billion dollar industry,” Armstrong told News4 saying “there's all kinds of insects and diseases that we don't have in America that if they come into our country could affect our crops.”
Some travelers try to beat the system using modified containers like a soda bottle cut in half with a hollowed-out bottom to store illegal plants. But Jasper or his fellow canine cops aren't as easily tricked.
Often, the dogs, such as Jasper, are just returning the favor. “They’re dogs that probably were going to be facing death,” said Walck.
Many pooches in the program were abandoned, rescued from shelters and trained by customs agents.
“They're good. And it's really a good thing we're doing not only for the dogs but everybody," ” Walck said. "It's a win-win situation all the way around."
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