Meet police dogs sniffing COVID-19 in schools in Massachusetts

Meet police dogs sniffing COVID-19 in schools in Massachusetts

K9s Huntah and Duke visited Norton Middle School today for some Covid-detection work. Thanks to Supt. Baeta and everyone from @NortonSchools and @FIU_Forensics for the help. pic.twitter.com/5NdOgIQP2W

Story Highlights:

  • “They love to work,” Jonathan Darling, Bristol County Sheriff’s public information officer, told CBS News Wednesday. “And then when they’re not working, they just want to give you kisses and we love it. They’re so cute.”

  • — Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (@BristolSheriff) January 5, 2022

Darling said the police department reached out to the Forensic Center at Florida International University last year regarding an emerging study on dogs that can detect COVID-19 odors. Pulling from research dating back to 1993, researchers at the school trained dogs to identify different odor characteristics of things like fungi and viruses. 

Last year, Duke and Huntah were enrolled in the school’s training program, where they practiced with face masks worn by people with COVID-19, Darling said. When the two graduated in July, they became the first law enforcement K9s in the country trained to detect the virus. 

The study found dogs to be more than 90% reliable in detecting COVID-19 odors, with a very low false positivity rate. So, FIU sent the trained dogs to work on the school’s campus and at state emergency operations. They even screened fans at Miami Heat games.

BCSO K9s Huntah and Duke are the first law enforcement K9s in the country trained to detect COVID. We celebrated at a small graduation ceremony yesterday. Huntah is Capt. Douglas’ partner and Duke is paired with Officer Santos. @SheriffHodgson pic.twitter.com/fohQMK5mnW

— Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (@BristolSheriff) July 15, 2021

Since graduating, the two sibling pups have worked in three different school districts, police stations, a local health department, town halls and office buildings.  The dogs are trained to sit down in front of an area where a COVID-19 odor is detected. The dog will then alert their handler so that they can mark the area as one to focus on for cleaning. Darling said the dogs are not used in place of COVID-19 testing. 

Duke and Huntah also bring joy to the community, Darling said. “The kids in the hallway just love seeing the dogs and the teachers love to see them and we just bring smiles to people’s faces,” he said. “So in addition to helping keep everybody safe against COVID, if you can bring a smile to somebody’s face, it’s totally worth it.”

More Tori B. Powell

Tori B. Powell is a breaking news reporter at CBS News. Reach her at tori.powell@viacomcbs.com

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