Sen. Scott calls for study on use of canines to screen airport travelers for COVID-19

Sens. Scott, Sinema announce Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act

Sens. Scott, Sinema announce Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – COVID-19 detecting dogs are being trained in North Florida, and they may have a future with the Transportation Security Administration.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is one of the lawmakers asking for more information about using canines in airports to detect COVID-19.

“As Americans begin traveling more, we have to ensure families are safe. We’ve seen reports that dogs can be effective in detecting COVID-19, and having canine units could provide an important additional level of screening at our airports,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott and U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., on Monday announced the Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act. It directs the TSA to conduct a feasibility study on the use of canines to screen travelers at airports for COVID-19.

“I think it’s amazing. I think it’s brilliant,” said Jeff Minder, the owner of Top Tier K9 in Madison, Florida. “I’m fortunate to live in Sen. Scott’s district, so, you know, he’s my senator.”

News4Jax recently saw how Minder teaches dogs to sniff out COVID-19.

We asked him what he thinks about the Senate bill on using canines in airports and how it could work.

“They’ll be extremely effective. We have two options for deployment, which is, one, a vapor scenting where the dog works within 6 feet of the passengers as they’re walking. They get downwind of the passengers, and they can scent if the COVID VOC, or the volatile organic compounds, from an affected person is being distributed out of their DNA, basically,” Minder said. “And then we do a mouth swab heads-down tests. It just takes a second for the dogs to hit that 99% accuracy now to tell you actually have COVID.”

There are two major elements of the Fly Safe Canine COVID Detection Act:

  • Requiring a feasibility study and then creating a plan to get canines in use if they are effective.
  • Reporting to Congress the results, with a recommendation on whether to use the dogs.

“Dogs are man’s best friend, and I do believe they’re going to get the credit for turning this economy back around,” Minder said. “Now, of course, the vaccine is going to be the big factor in it, but this makes people feel good about getting out again and it gives them that confidence to open up the billfold and start shaking the economy out again.”

According to Minder, three breeds seem best for COVID-19 detection: Belgian Malinois, German shepherds and British Labrador retrievers.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.