Bomb dogs showcase skills at BIA

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine - Three newest members of the city’s Police Department showcased their skills Monday to a captivated audience at Bangor International Airport.

Endumin, a Belgian Malinois explosive-sniffing dog, and his handler, Officer Dan Scripture, scanned the airport’s international arrivals terminal around 10:30 a.m. Monday, in search of a training device that gives off the scent of explosives.

As political and department leaders watched, Endumin moved quickly through the area, sniffing a fire extinguisher and water fountain before abruptly sitting down in front of a row of blue terminal seats. The training device had been hidden under the chairs.

"The dog does not get aggressive when he sees an item, but the dog does become very intent when he locates something," said Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, some Police Department officials, representatives from the airport and Mike Prendergast, chief of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, witnessed Monday’s demonstration.

In addition to the Endumin and Scripture team, Officer Jeffrey Small works at the airport with a black Labrador named Jovic, and Officer Chris Desmond works with Pele, a German shepherd. The three dogs and handlers returned from a 10-week training course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in mid-March.

Bangor police partnered with the Transportation Security Administration to bring the explosive-detecting dogs to BIA. TSA will reimburse the city $150,500 annually for five years to cover the veterinary costs, feeding bills and partial compensation for the handlers.

While TSA owns the dogs, at the end of the day they go home with their officer handlers.

TSA’s canine program has some 490 dog teams in 85 airports and 14 mass transit systems around the nation. The dogs are required to spend 80 percent of their time in a transportation environment, such as the airport, but can also be used by area agencies in emergencies.

"We have not used them for an official complaint yet," Gastia said. "That’s quite frankly because we haven’t had one yet that would rise to that level."

The canine presence has not concerned passengers, Scripture said.

The dogs have actually put some travelers at ease.

"A lot of people are nervous when they are traveling and the dogs are certainly a distraction," Scripture said. "People like to talk when they’re nervous and they’ll come up to me and ask his name and what kind of dog he is."

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