An alternative career with ATF

Vans purchased through the Lions Challenge will carry the Lions Club International logo.Guiding Eyes puppy raiser Trish Pannuto describes a recent visit to ATF.  

Since 1990, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has trained over 852 explosives detection canines and 224 accelerant detection canines.  Both bomb and arson dogs are capable of detecting a wide range of explosives and ignitable liquids – with sensitivity superior to many commercially available detection instruments.

While other breeds are often used for detection work, ATF works exclusively with Labrador Retrievers because of their robust energy level, their easy going temperament, curiosity and their well recognized appetite – perfect for a program that works on food reward.

During a recent visit, we had the opportunity to talk with many of the ATF trainers, all of whom have a background in military or law enforcement canine programs.

All of the dogs that we greeted, including Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s Conway, Iggie and Ting, were happy, energized and eager to work.  What a joy it was to see the reunion of Ting with Montgomery Region raisers Terri and Irwin Binder! Ting clearly recognized Terri and Irwin with joyful kisses and then returned to her ATF trainer to demonstrate her skills.

At the time of our visit, in her fifth week of training, Ting responded to both hand and whistle commands, leaving the handler’s side, traveling directly to a can containing a small amount of explosive and sitting to alert the handler to the presence of an explosive odor. With a blow of the whistle, Ting quickly returned to the handler’s side for her food reward and then awaited her next command.

“Of course the overwhelming feeling was one of pride watching Ting work off lead,” shared puppy raiser Terri Binder.  “She seemed in her element, free and easy, and definitely happy.  She was literally and figuratively unleashed, able to use her boundless energy for good. She has truly found her occupation.”