Miami testing COVID-19 detector dogs

The facility becomes the first in the US to carry out this kind of research  

Miami International Airport has launched a pilot programme to test the use of COVID-19 detector dogs that are trained to recognise a particular scent given off by those who have contracted the virus.  

The canines have undergone a training programme at Florida International University’s (FIU) Modesto Maidique Campus in Miami, in which they achieved accuracy rates of 96-99% in published peer-reviewed, double blind trials.  

Miami International Airport
Photo Miami International Airport

The programme is currently only testing airport workers with the dogs based at an employee security checkpoint and after the pilot programme ends the dogs will go back to training to improve their accuracy and specificity, following scientifically validated methods. 

Once one of the two dogs being used for the trials has indicated that a person may be infected with the virus, the infected person is sent for a rapid COVID test to confirm the result.         

Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor of Miami-Dade County, said: “This pandemic has pushed us to innovate to stop the spread. I applaud Commissioner McGhee and the County Commission for thinking outside the box with this initiative. We're proud to do everything we can to protect our residents. I look forward to seeing how the airport tests their skills and expanding the pilot program to other County facilities.” 

According to the airport, numerous studies have found detector dogs to be one of the most reliable tools to identify substances based on their odour and while they are in regular use around the world in the detection of currency, drugs, explosives and agriculture, studies have shown that they can also detect persons that have diseases such as diabetes, epilepsy and certain cancers.  

Kenneth G. Furton, FIU provost and professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, added: “Being able to apply decades of research in this way, to provide an additional layer of protection to airport employees at Miami International Airport, it’s humbling. These dogs are another valuable tool we can leverage to help us live with this ongoing pandemic.”