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MTA graduating class of dogs trained to sniff out trouble

In total, nineteen canines are the newest members

In total, nineteen canines are the newest members of the MTA police program. Here they are seen at their graduation ceremony held in Grand Central Terminal on Friday, June 13, 2014. Credit: Jeremy Bales

The largest class of bomb-sniffing anti-terrorist German shepherds trained to work for the MTA graduated Friday.

Each of the 19 dogs, who bear the names of New York's fallen heroes, received a badge with a collar and full color guard honors at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ceremony at Grand Central Terminal.

The dogs and their handlers from the MTA police and sister agencies including the NYPD were honored for their "extensive 12-week training program for bomb detection that will protect our lives," said Joseph Giulietti, president of Metro-North Railroad at the ceremony.

The dogs will patrol trains and station platforms of the Long Island Rail Road, subways and Metro-North.

Also attending the ceremony were families whose relatives died in the line of duty both as first responders and members of the armed forces. "I think this is a great honor because these dogs are protecting the city we love," said Theresa Sack of St. James, whose husband, FDNY Safety Battalion Chief Lawrence T. Stack, 58, died on 9/11 when the North Tower collapsed while he was trying to save a man's life.

"Knowing that this dog has been named Chief, which is what people called my father, will now be patrolling the subways and railroads fighting terrorism. This means a lot to this family," said Michael Stack, 44, his son and a firefighter with Ladder 176 in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

MTA police officer and canine handler Anthony Ferrara said his dog Mac is named after NYPD Officer James McNaughton, who was killed by sniper fire in Baghdad while training Iraqi police in 2005.

"Mac is the best partner in the world -- a great tool to help and protect," Ferrara said. He was flanked by McNaughton's parents, Bill and Michele McNaughton of Centereach, who are both retired NYPD officers.

"Jimmy was a good young man, plain and simple," Bill McNaughton said of his son, who joined the Army after 9/11.

Bill McNaughton, an ex-canine handler, said having a bomb-sniffing dog named after his son "keeps Jimmy's name out there and when people ask how he got his name his handler will tell Jimmy's story."

MTA Chief Michael Coan said the department's canine unit of 50 dogs "swept" through 2,619 unattended packages last year and that the dogs are trained to track the origin of the bags.

"These dogs are vital law enforcement tools and without the support of the families who take care of them this would be impossible," Coan said.

The dogs, which are about 1 year old, live with the police officers and their families. The dogs are retired when they are about 8 years old.

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