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Fact Sheet - ATF National Canine Division

March, 2016
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Fast Facts

  1. From March 2009 through May 2015, ATF's National Canine Division has successfully imprinted 3,656 Department of Defense military working dogs on homemade explosives.

  2. Since 1990, ATF has trained approximately 837 explosives detection canines and 243 accelerant detection canine teams.

  3. The National Canine Division initiated the Search Enhanced Evidence K-9 (S.E.E.K) program in 2013 and currently has 13 teams working throughout the United States.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Canine Division (NCD) trains explosives and accelerant detection canines for federal, state, local and international law enforcement and fire investigation agencies. ATF is a leading source of specially trained explosives and accelerant detection canine teams. Once trained, the canine teams are assigned to local, state and other federal law enforcement agencies, as well as selected foreign countries, and regularly lend support to investigations and security efforts. Congress has recognized the proficiency standard the National Odor Recognition Testing Standard (NORT), used by ATF, as a benchmark for effective canine explosives detection.

ATF is a principal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dedicated to reducing violent crime, preventing terrorism, and protecting our nation. ATF is committed to working to investigate and reduce crime involving firearms, explosives and acts of arson.

The Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, PL 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009-369 § 653(a) reads: “The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to establish scientific certification standards for explosives detection canines, and shall provide, on a reimbursable basis, for the certification of explosives detection canines employed by Federal agencies, or other agencies providing explosives detection services at airports in the United States.” This authority was transferred with ATF upon the agency’s move to DOJ.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 17 (HSPD 17), Combating Terrorist Use of Explosives in the United States, directs federal agencies to research, develop, test, and evaluate “activities relating to the detection and prevention of, protection against, and response to explosives attacks and the development of explosives render-safe tools and technologies.”

ATF developed the explosives detection canine program to combat the explosives threat in the United States and abroad. ATF is also at the forefront of combating terrorism through innovative programs such as training federal, state, local and international law enforcement explosives detection canines on homemade explosives (HME). Since 1990, ATF has trained approximately 837 explosives detection canines and 243 accelerant detection canine teams. These dogs and their ATF-trained handlers are located throughout the United States in local police and fire departments, fire marshal offices and federal, state and international law enforcement agencies. To date, the NCD has trained explosives detection canine teams for 22 foreign countries.

Image of an arson canineIn 1984, ATF developed an accelerant detection canine pilot project that resulted in the creation of an accelerant detection system that offered an immediate advantage over field instruments. In 1990, ATF began a joint program with the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program to produce a more effective explosives detection canine capable of detecting a greater variety of explosives than those under existing programs. The canines are capable of detecting 19,000 explosives formulations. A major advantage in using the canine is their mobility, a significant improvement over fixed detector installations that can be circumvented by a terrorist placing a bomb or smuggling explosives.

Congress has recognized ATF’s National Odor Recognition Testing Standard (NORT) as a benchmark proficiency standard for effective canine explosives detection. The NORT served as a model for the drafting of the Joint Program Office (JPO) “National Explosives Detection Canine Team Guidelines” odor recognition testing section. Since September 2005, 2,208 federal, state, local and military canine teams have participated in NORT training.

Beginning in March 2009 through May 2015, the NCD successfully imprinted 3,656 Department of Defense Military Working Dogs (MWD) on HME.

NCD initiated the ATF Search Enhanced Evidence K-9 (S.E.E.K) program in 2013 and currently has 13 teams working throughout the United States. The program was developed to provide explosives detection canine handlers with a canine that possesses the same detection capabilities as our current explosives detection canines, but with the added ability to work independently and at greater distances in a variety of circumstances, to include the detection of firearms, explosives and post-blast evidence. Teams are unique to ATF and to the special agent canine handler, and provide a law enforcement asset that supports the ATF mission, the Frontline Initiative, and criminal investigations involving violent crimes at the federal, state and local levels.

The ATF National Canine Division is located in Front Royal, Va., and consists of two facilities. One is a 20,000-square-foot climate controlled training building that allows year-round training with office space for support personnel. The second is a 25,000-square-foot kennel facility that can accommodate 100 canines and incorporates the latest technology in kennel design. The kennel facility includes a functioning veterinary treatment clinic, canine bathing amenities and additional office space for support personnel.

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Additional Resources: K-9 (S.E.E.K) program

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