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Should TSA let airport passenger screening go to the dogs?

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"Dogs would be a wonderful solution," says Jeffrey Price, co-author of a textbook on aviation security and chief of Leading Edge Strategies, a security consulting firm in Denver. "They're much friendlier than some of the current processes – and yet, if you're hiding something, the last thing you want to see is a dog."

Bomb-sniffing dogs could improve passenger screening and explosives detection, while reducing concerns about privacy and radiation exposure, some US security experts say.

And Congress, after the 9/11 attacks, mandated increased use of explosive-detection dogs. By 2008, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had deployed 370 certified canine explosive-detection teams to 69 airports and 56 teams to 14 mass transit systems, the Government Accountability Office reported. That year, TSA's aviation canine explosive detection teams received $36.3 million in funding.

Today, more dogs than ever are sniffing for explosives in the US transport system, though TSA will not say how many teams now scan air cargo, specifically.

"More than 750 TSA-certified explosive detection canine teams are deployed to mass transit systems, airports and cargo facilities," says Greg Soule, a TSA spokesman, in an e-mailed response to questions. "These teams are a highly effective, mobile layer of security to detect explosive materials in various transportation environments."

But TSA has not approved use of dogs for routine passenger screening in airports. Why?

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