LITTLE ROCK (AP)--Airline travelers at Little Rock on Saturday were the first to undergo the airport's new security measure -- dogs trained to sniff out explosives.
Labs and springer spaniels will be stationed seven days a week at the Little Rock National Airport under an $817,600 yearlong contract.
``The dogs are generally approachable,'' said airport director Deborah Schwartz. ``They are not what people generally think of as a security dog.'' The airport staff recommended adding the dogs as an added layer of security, even though officials know of no other airport that uses dogs in so wide a role.
The dogs and their handlers replace security guards that have been stationed at entrances to the airport's two short-term parking lots and the parking deck since after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A dog and handler also will patrol the curbside check-in area in front of the main airport terminal. Airport officials sought out the specially trained dogs on their own after they were unable to obtain the canines through the Transportation Security Administration, the agency charged with the overall security of the nation's airports.
Under federal regulations, airports must have security guards inspect all vehicles in airport parking lots in close proximity to terminals lacking protection from explosive blasts.
Motorists in passenger cars usually have to stop and open their trunks before being allowed to park. Now trunks will be inspected only if the dogs detect explosives.
The dogs will not always be stationed in the airport terminal and concourse, but will be available if needed. Six dogs will be stationed at the airport virtually all the time.
Professional Security Training and Investigations in Memphis, Tenn., provided the service.