Officials with the Transportation Security Administration say they are hoping to employ more dogs with floppy ears for airport screenings, because pointy-eared canines “scare children,” PEOPLE confirms.
TSA administrator David Pekoske revealed the plan to the Washington Examiner recently, saying that the agency has made a “conscious effort” to use floppy-eared dogs.
“We find the passenger acceptance of floppy ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern,” Pekoske told the publication. “Doesn’t scare children.”
Michael Bilello, TSA’s assistant administrator for strategic communication and public affairs, confirmed the news to PEOPLE, saying that the agency isn’t banning or phasing out dogs with cone-shaped ears.
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Instead, they are hoping to transition to using floppy-eared dogs over the next few years.
“Pointy-eared dogs can be a little ominous, a little intimidating — you generally see that with police dogs or tactical dogs,” Bilello tells PEOPLE.
“What we’re looking to do is employ more floppy-eared dogs because they’re just not as intimidating. They’re a little more inviting and welcoming. That’s what the airport environment is about.”
He says they are not “retiring” dogs with pointy ears, but will “prefer” floppy-eared canines in the future.
“A capable, trained canine is a valued asset,” he continues. “Clearly, the dog’s capabilities, the dog’s competence is most important.”
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The TSA trains about 350 canine teams a year, and has more than 900 teams either screening travelers, or sniffing cargo or baggage, according to the TSA’s website. About one-third of those dogs interact with passengers.
The agency trains seven breeds of dogs. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have pointy ears. German Shorthaired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, wirehaired pointers, Vizslas, and golden retrievers do not, according to the examiner.
About 80 percent of the TSA’s 1,200 dogs have droopy ears, according to the publication.
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