Furry, floppy-eared and-four legged, they’re man’s best friend, a bomber’s worst enemy and they’re coming to Detroit next year.
Ilitch Charities and the Detroit Tigers Foundation announced Wednesday they are donating $135,000 to purchase three specially-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to give to local law enforcement agencies.
“We’re honored to provide these donations ... to extend the Ilitch companies’ longstanding commitment toward helping to create a safer community,” said Michael Healy, president of Ilitch Charities and vice president of park operations for the Detroit Tigers. “I’m proud to say (this donation) will allow these agencies to have the first Vapor Wake dogs in the state of Michigan.”
Vapor Wake is the trademarked name of bomb-sniffing dogs trained by a West Point, Georgia-based company called AMK9.
Healy made the remarks at a Wednesday news conference in front of Comerica Park. He was joined by officials from the agencies getting the dogs — the Michigan State Police, the Wayne State University Public Safety Department and the Detroit Police Department.
The media was given a demonstration inside the stadium of how the dogs can detect explosives. A target was given a tote bag containing a small pouch of gun powder and told to walk amid a crowd of people. As the group moved by the black Labrador Retriever, the dog tracked the scent, even when people were between it and the target, and led handlers to the tote bag in seconds.
AMK9 uses a patented method developed by Auburn University to train its Vapor Wake dogs, said Paul Hammond, the company’s vice president of canine services.
Unlike conventional bomb-sniffing dogs that focus on finding static objects, Vapor Wake dogs are trained to hone in on heat plumes, or “vapor wakes,” from explosive materials that are being carried by a moving person, he said.
“Obviously with current events going on around the world, it’s widely recognized that body-worn explosives are the new threat,” he said. “These dogs are trained to detect body-worn explosives in transit.”
Vapor Wake dogs are being used at several professional sports venues, including Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play, he said. New York’s Police Department is using dogs as part of its anti-terrorism efforts.
Hammond said the dogs earmarked for the state police, the DPD and the WSU Public Safety Department are still going through training and will be turned over to them in March 2017.
Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steve Dolunt said getting a dog for his department and the city is a “home run, no pun intended.” He also said he’s never seen anything like the Vapor Wake dogs in his law enforcement career, which spans more than 30 years.
“For this dog to be able to come out and help us, it makes citizens safer, it makes us safer,” he said. “I’m very thankful for the Ilitch Charities and Detroit Tigers Foundation for doing this. This is amazing.”