Congress held hearings last week on the best way to provide security at airports and it came down to which is better—an invasive imaging machine costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that can see through your clothes or a friendly dog who might lick your hand. According to CNN:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, led the dog caucus, arguing that canines are cheaper and less invasive than body scanners. Dogs are exceptional at sensing explosives, do not require software upgrades, don't depreciate with use and might even be able to detect bombs implanted under a person's skin.
Canines are missing one thing that body scanners have, Chaffetz said. Lobbyists.
Transportation Security Administration Assistant Administrator John Sammon stated that the TSA has used both dogs and body scanners, but dogs have limitations. They require frequent breaks while the imaging machines can be worked constantly.
And he said a dog can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"How do you come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. I mean Alpo only costs so much," Chaffetz said. "I challenge you to verify that number."
Sammon said the cost of trainers and handlers is substantial.
"I assume that your whole-body imaging machines require an operator too," said dog fancier Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. The machine at his local airport requires three, he said. "One to stop you going through, one to listen on the (walkie talkie), and the one in back (to review the image)."
Chaffetz proposed a contest to Sammon:
"You take a thousand people and put them in a room, I'll give you 10 whole-body imaging machines. You give me 5,000 in another room. You give me one of his dogs and we will find that bomb before you find your bomb," he said. "Let's see who can find more bombs, and let's see who is less expensive."
Sammon promised to check on the cost of dogs and report back to Congress.
Lobbyists have pushed through the sale of the machines at a cost of well over $100,000 each, even though TSA officials have told Congress that “body scanners can not detect implanted devices, although they may detect modifications to body contours.”
Whatever that means.
Inspector William Parker, head of Amtrak's K-9 unit was asked whether dogs can detect implanted devices.
"Scientifically, right now there's no data that says a dog can or cannot," Parker said. But he noted that dogs can detect cancer and tumors. "Dogs can detect anything that they're taught. I think if the dog is taught to do that, he'll be a very good asset for that."
Of course the only way to “scientifically prove” that a dog can detect a bomb implanted in a human body is to actually implant a bomb in a human body and “prove” that the dog can detect it.
Which would require volunteers with a deeply ingrained death (and pain) wish.