Meet the new security dogs patrolling the checkpoint lines at the airport
Quattro-Quappe, the newest security measure at Sacramento International Airport, couldn’t help it. During an informal news conference to announce the arrival of two new bomb-sniffing dogs, the German shepherd’s neck craned and nose twitched as passengers walked to a nearby security checkpoint. He couldn’t wait to get to work.
The Transportation Security Administration introduced Quattro-Quappe and a German shorthaired pointer named Bella-Bell at the airport Tuesday. The airport is one of five in the country to get new dogs for an additional layer of security, TSA said.
According to TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers, the airport already has K-9 units patrolling, but none of them were trained to work security checkpoints.
Deputies from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department will handle the new dogs, which can detect explosives and bomb-making materials, TSA said. Officials expect the K-9s, specially trained for passenger screening, to begin patrolling lines sometime this week.
Quattro-Quappe and Bella-Bell – named after victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – received 12 weeks of training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
When the dogs are checking for explosives, Dankers said the units will be following TSA protocols, not other typical law enforcement functions, like searching for drugs or other contraband. If the dogs detect something, she said, their behavior will change. The handlers are trained to read the change in the dog’s behavior. If the dog detects a problem, TSA has established protocols to intervene.
The sheriff’s airport detail agreed to have its handlers train for that function so the TSA could supplement its existing security processes.
“We’re really pleased that we have a relationship with the sheriff’s department that allows us to have this additional security asset in the checkpoint,” Dankers said.
Bella-Bell and Quattro-Quappe, both considered large-breed dogs, were chosen specifically for their ability to work and interact in and among crowds, according to sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton. Their size also allows them to perform other tasks necessary on the airport grounds, such as reaching the overhead bins in airplanes, according to TSA.
“We just really don’t want people to be intimidated by the dogs,” Hampton said. “These dogs are very friendly.”
Bella-Bell and and Quattro-Quappe have formed close bonds with their handlers, Mike Cravens and Jerry Jarrett, seven- and thirteen-year veterans of the airport squad. The dogs trained with the deputies for months and now live at home with them.
“When we’re home, she’s like a normal dog,” Jarrett said of Bella-Bell. Once Bella-Bell retires, she’ll be a family dog. But for now, “I try to minimize the amount activities she has with other people though, because she is a working dog.”
And, Jarrett said, that means letting them do their jobs by not petting the dogs.