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MTA pulls together new way to find K-9 pups

MTA K-9 Police Officer Jon Gigantiello patrols Grand Central with German Shepherd Sarge. (Andrew Hinderaker)

The MTA is sniffing out a new way to hire canine companions.

The agency wants to find a breeder to provide new recruits for its K-9 unit, and five puppy providers have answered the call,  MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

The unit sniffs for bombs and clears unattended packages at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, along with stops along the commuter rail lines.

Up until now, the agency has no formal way to staff  the $10 million unit, resulting in gaps when dogs retire, Ortiz said.

Three dogs just hung up their badges in the past few weeks, and they are living comfortably with their handlers, he said.

The dogs, typically German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, cost $5,000 each, as they have to be of the “right age and temperament” to be trained for bomb detection, Ortiz said.

“There is a certain type of dog that is needed to do what they do. They have to have a good energy,” he explained.

The canines sniff out an average of 10 unattended packages a day. Without the dogs, the bomb squad would have to deploy robots to each incident.

“They are put in situations that are fairly dangerous,” said William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. “They seem to be pretty well trained.”

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