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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2013


Contact: Office of Public Affairs


ATF Continues to Put the Bite on Explosives

WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today produced eight new Special Agent Canine Handler (SACH) teams after graduating its 102nd detection K–9 class in a ceremony at ATF’s National Canine Training and Operations Center in Front Royal, Va.

ATF’s explosives detection K–9 program is recognized as a leader in the explosives detection K–9 community, said ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones. These ATF–certified K–9s have proven to be tremendously valuable detecting and alerting to explosives before the public suffers from a cowardly act of violence.

All ATF special agent K–9 handlers are trained as Certified Explosives Specialists (CES), having specialized training and experience in post–blast scenes and explosives recognition, handling, and disposal.

Initially the K–9s underwent a six–week training session conditioning the dogs to recognize more than 19,000 explosives compounds including firearms and ammunition. The K–9s were taught to detect various amounts of low and high explosives, such as smokeless and black powders as well as dynamite, TNT, and homemade explosives. ATF trains both explosives and accelerant detection K–9s by using the food–reward methodology.

After the initial instructional process, the K–9s are paired with their handlers for a 10–week explosives detection training period learning to search schools, vehicles, train stations, warehouses, retail stores and other facilities.

ATF trains both explosives and accelerant detection K–9s. The dogs are trained for a variety of federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, in addition to state and local law enforcement agencies. Since 1991, ATF has trained nearly 800 explosives detection canines and 157 accelerant detection canines.

ATF’s K–9 program, which began in 1986, uses only Labrador Retrievers. The dogs are supplied by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the Guide Dog Foundation, and the Puppies Behind Bars Foundation.

Currently there are 32 ATF–trained special agent K–9 handler explosives detection teams and 104 ATF–trained explosives detection K–9 teams deployed throughout the United States with local, state and federal agencies. There are 375 explosives detection K–9 teams in other countries and about 60 ATF–trained accelerant detection K–9 teams currently active in the United States.

ATF–trained dogs have been used successfully in a variety of situations including explosives and firearms investigations, as well as in the more traditional protective search and sweep responsibilities. These recently graduated special agent canine handler teams will be located throughout the United States.

For information on ATF and its programs, go to