RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The COVID-19 pandemic created supply issues and shortages across the world. It even affected the numbers of bomb-sniffing dogs in the U.S.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Yeah. These well-trained canines who do invaluable, dangerous work are in short supply. And one big reason is the U.S. relies on getting these dogs from other countries. Cindy Otto is the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She warned at the Senate Homeland Security Committee about outsourcing bomb-sniffing dogs back in 2016.
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CINDY OTTO: By outsourcing our national security requirements, we give up control of the type of dogs, the health of the dogs and the early training of the dogs. We also are at risk for supply interruption due to politics, disaster or disease.
MARTIN: It seems rather prescient. Six years later, those predictions are a reality. We reached out to Cindy Otto for her view of things today.
OTTO: Certainly, COVID interrupted everything. As more and more countries are realizing the benefits of having these explosive detection dogs, there is a greater demand, and there's only a limited number of dogs that can be sustained in the programs that are there.
MARTÍNEZ: Breeders in Europe have specialized in these dogs for generations. In the U.S., breeding programs are mainly focused on dogs as pets.
OTTO: When we're selecting for dogs that work, they love to work. They're not like your average pet dog.
MARTIN: Otto says the Department of Homeland Security has invested in different projects trying to fix that, like one at Auburn University in Alabama.
OTTO: To enhance not only the breeding but the knowledge to know what it is that makes the dogs most likely to be successful. We can spread that out among all the different organizations, and then it can become a huge opportunity for people who want to breed dogs.
MARTÍNEZ: But progress won't be swift. Otto says it will take years, at least - human years, not dog years.
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