SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio is being represented at the Super Bowl by some of the top canines in the world.
Dozens of teams of explosive detection canines and their handlers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are providing security in the Phoenix area for this week’s Super Bowl festivities.
The canines were all trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland at the Canine Training Center.
“We’re going to have our best out there on game day, protecting the traveling public,” said Zeb Polasek, TSA Canine Training Center director.
The canines undergo months of training at the CTC. Some exercises include detecting explosives from people sitting inside a terminal and travelers passing through the screening process. For many of these dogs, it’s the ultimate game of hide-and-seek.
“Explosives on passengers or in a static setting at an airport. It could be mass transit. It could be multiple different areas,” said Nick Graham, TSA CTC trainer and adoption coordinator.
The dogs are trained to give a passive response once they detect a suspicious substance or odor.
“If they detect someone, something on a passenger, they’ll hone in on them and follow that specific person,” said Graham.
The training also includes sweeping through a wide aircraft simulator before and after passengers get on board. The canines will react to something out of the ordinary in the aisles of the plane.
The canines also weave their way in and out of passenger luggage before it goes on board.
“They don’t get distracted by food. They’re trained. These dogs are professional dogs that operate at the highest level,” said Polasek.
The goal is to keep people safe during the big game, but the skills and training start at the Canine Training Center at JBSA-Lackland.
“We do look at them as professional athletes, everything from sleep to the nourishment and the food that they get,” said Polasek. “And, of course, the expert training is key to produce that product that’s actually going to be out at the Super Bowl.”