Bomb-sniffing police dog assigned to MacArthur Airport

On July 29, 2014, at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the deployment of the Suffolk County Police Department's first "Vapor Wake" explosive detection K-9, named Unser. Unser can detect an explosive's vapor wake even after a person has left the area and can follow the trail to the explosive source. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

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A dog trained to detect explosives has been assigned exclusively to Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma by the Suffolk County Police Department, officials said Monday.

The announcement that Unser, a 2-year-old blond Labrador, would be the first such specialized police dog based at the airport will be made by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and police officials at an airport news conference Tuesday.

Unser was trained to detect carried or body-worn explosives, as well as a plume of air let off from an explosive after a person has left an area, police said. It can follow the scent to the explosive source, police said.

Unser's handler is a veteran police officer with 27 years in the department who has been assigned to the airport operations division for 11 years, a police spokesperson said.

Suffolk police's airport operations section works in partnership with Islip Town law enforcement officers at MacArthur Airport, police said.

Typically, police dogs are German shepherds, the spokesperson said, adding that it was unique to deploy a blond Labrador.

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So-called "vapor-wake" dogs were developed by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University in Alabama and are now trained and sold by Auburn, Alabama-based iK9 Holding Co. LLC, according to the college's website.

The dogs are put into the program at birth and are trained to "detect an explosive's vapor wake after a person has carried an explosive through an area, and can follow the vapor wake to the explosive source," according to a description of the program in a news release on the school's website.

"Dogs can smell in parts per trillion and range for miles on end -- there is not a technology on earth that can even come close to that capability," said Dr. Craig Angle, who leads a team of researchers and scientists in the college's Animal Health and Performance Program, in a separate school news story.

It was not clear what prompted Suffolk police to use a dog like Unser in the airport, but police said the technology aims to provide better protection to travelers.

The dog and related training were paid for by a grant from New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services, but cost details were not immediately available, police said.

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