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Dogs Remain Man’s Best Friend for Sniffing Out Bombs or Drugs

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A Police dog handler escorts a sniffer dog through London Victoria railway station in central London, U.K., on Thursday, March 23, 2017. Parliament will return to work on Thursday after London's worst terror attack in more than a decade left five people dead, including the assailant and the police officer he stabbed. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
A Police dog handler escorts a sniffer dog through London Victoria railway station in central London, U.K. (Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

 

Chemical-sniffing dogs are an important part of law enforcement, and according to the Wall Street Journal, they won’t be replaced by artificial detection any time soon. Despite sometime uneven results in the field, which are caused by multiple factors (including the beliefs of its handler), dogs remain better at sniffing out bombs and drugs than sensors.

“What’s cool about dogs is when they do come into contact with an odor, they can track it to its source,” Auburn University’s L. Paul Waggoner told the Journal. “There is not an instrument out there that replicates a dog’s nose.”

That is not from a lack of trying. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense spent 13 years and over $60 million the develop sensors that could smell bombs and other chemicals as good as dogs can. It didn’t work.

Dogs have a unique combination of qualities that make them perfect for scent detection; aside from their strong noses, they are comfortable around people and crowds and respond well to training. Even animals that out-perform dogs in one of those areas can’t compare across all three.

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