China Starts Using Drug-Sniffing Dogs on Airplanes

China has for the first time started using dogs to sniff for drugs on flights to Beijing. The dogs were put to work at Terminal 3 of Beijing’s Capital International Airport.

Wearing uniforms and leather shoes, two golden Labrador retrievers, Weite and Haige, boarded a plane from the United Arab Emirates Monday.

Traffickers hiding drugs leave a distinct smell on their seats that is detectable for up to two hours. The dogs can detect the smell with 100 percent accuracy, said Yan Haiqun, vice head of the Beijing Customs Anti-Smuggling Bureau.

“Labrador retrievers are friendly to people. Their noses are enormously accurate,” he said.

Once the dogs detect a suspicious scent, officials can check the suspect before they leave the airport. This helps police get information about the suspect’s nationality, name and age in time, he said.

The check starts after all the passengers get off and usually lasts only 10 minutes. Passengers can leave the airport without having to wait for the results, Yan said.

“We dress the dogs to prevent their hair falling on the seats or the carpet. Their shoes help protect the seat covers and other objects from claw damage,” he said.

“I have not heard of any other countries using drug-sniffer dogs on planes.”

Beijing Customs has trained 15 sniffing dogs since 1996 to patrol airports, railway stations and post offices, and seized 31 kilograms of drugs.

Drug-trafficking through human bodies and luggage in Beijing’s airports have been increasing over recent years, Yi said.

China used more than 200 explosive-sniffing dogs during the Beijing Olympics to help security. The dogs were also trained for anti-drug and rescue missions for fires and anti-terrorist operations.

– Article from Xinhua on January 14, 2009.