K9s deployed into schools to sniff out Covid-19

Three Massachusetts school districts are employing a new strategy to combat Covid – K9s trained to detect the smell of the virus.

“[Covid K9] dogs have been tested in data collected and published at 99.6 percent accuracy,” said K-9 trainer Kip Schultz on Thursday. “So, that’s pretty good.”

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The district will have two dogs visit schools, a black labrador named Huntah and a golden lab named Duke.

“With COVID, whether it’s the Omicron, whether it’s the Delta, our dogs will hit on it,” said Bristol County Captain Paul Douglas. “And if there’s a new variant that comes out in six months, hopefully there isn’t, but if there is one, COVID is COVID.”

Covid canines have already been deployed in other states, including Florida and New York. K9s deployed at the Miami International Airport scored over 99% accuracy at detecting COVID-19.

“It’s all about tools in the toolbox,” Schultz said. “I think in the times that we’re in, the dog is vital to combat the virus.”

Huntah and Duke will be responsible for sniffing surfaces and inanimate objects before children return to school.

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“I see it as a great opportunity for kids to recognize that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risk and I want them to feel secure and safe and not anxious about their surroundings,” Fairhaven School Superintendent Tara Kohler.

Florida International University’s International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) found that “Much like bomb-detecting dogs, COVID-19 detecting dogs can sweep an area and alert to the presence of the odor that is left on surfaces (particles, aerosols, cellular material) by a person infected with COVID-19.”

Huntah and Duke are part of a new program at Florida International University that trains K-9s in COVID-19 protection, and they are the first two law enforcement Covid K9s.

“BCSO K9s Huntah and Duke are the first law enforcement K9s in the country trained to detect COVID. We celebrated at a small graduation ceremony yesterday. Huntah is Capt. Douglas’ partner and Duke is paired with Officer Santos. @SheriffHodgson,” tweeted Bristol County Sheriff’s Office.

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“DeEtta Mills is the Dir. of the International Forensic Research Institute at FIU & Biology Chair — in Norton today to certify the detector dogs. The program was modeled after training dogs to sniff out a fungus that killed avocado trees in Florida,” tweeted Kelly O’Neill of NBC10.

“They love to work,” Bristol County Sheriff’s spokesman Jonathan Darling told CBS News. “And then when they’re not working, they just want to give you kisses and we love it.”