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Want To Adopt A Dog? How About One Who Flunked Out Of TSA Drug Sniffing School?

by SharonKurheg

Most of us have probably seen the K-9 dogs Transportation Security Administration (TSA) use in airports. On leashes and wearing DO NOT PET harnesses, they sniff people and bags as their daily job.

The dogs are trained to sniff out drugs, substances used to make bombs, and other illicit materials. They go through a rigorous 12-week program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where they learn to pay attention to primary scents and to ignore secondary odors. They’re taught to let the handler know if there’s a possible suspect by approaching the person and then either sitting or gazing at their master for approval (and then getting a calorie-free reward. Kong toys are nice).

Of course, just like in any other difficult school program, there will be some students who just don’t make the cut. They may be more interested in cuddles than looking for drugs. They may get distracted too easily. Or maybe they get too timid in certain situations.

There are also the dogs on the other side of the coin – the ones who put in good careers as TSA K-9s, and are ready for retirement.

What does the TSA do with these flunkees and retirees? They put them up for adoption!

Dogs who have not met the criteria for government work at TSA Canine Training Center, and those who are ready to retire, go up for adoption through Lackland Airforce Base. They range in age from about 2 to 4 years old for the former trainees and, of course, retired dogs are older than that. These dogs are highly active and in most cases, untrained and not house broken, but with proper training and care, they can be a great addition to families.

Requirements to potentially adopt a dog include:

  • You must have a fenced in yard at the time of applying.
  • There should be no intentions of moving within six months of adopting a dog.
  • Homes must abide by all local pet ordinances.
  • You must agree to provide the dog with appropriate medical care, exercise, training and companionship.
  • All existing pets in the home must have current vaccinations and preventive care.
  • The age of children in the home will be taken into consideration when selecting a dog.

As per TSA, the application process includes:

  1. Applying: Only completed applications that meet the minimum requirements will be considered. If you meet the requirements listed above, please complete the reality checklist and submit the checklist to receive an application. Once we have an application on file and you meet the minimum requirements, you will be notified of available dogs or placed on the wait list.

  2. Meeting the dogs: Approved applicants will be emailed photos and profiles of the dogs available for adoption. You will be given an opportunity to schedule an appointment to travel to the facility in San Antonio, Texas, to meet the dog(s). Please note we cannot hold a dog for an extended period.We will check references and ask to interview individuals living in the home, your veterinarian and for photos of your home and/or yard.

  3. Selecting the right dog: It is important that we match each dog with the best suited family. To do this, you may need to make multiple visits to our facility before a final match is made.

  4. Finalizing the adoption: Processing the adoption may take a few days or weeks depending on the dog’s status. Once a pick-up date is set, you must bring a leash, collar and appropriate-sized dog shipping crate to the training center. To complete the adoption, you will be required to sign and notarize a “Covenant Not to Sue with Indemnity” agreement and complete a microchip registration prior to pick-up. You will be provided a copy of the dog’s medical records for the past six months, one month’s supply of flea and heartworm preventive, three-days-worth of dog food and copies of the adoption forms.

Applications are proceeded on a first come, first served basis and dogs are paired with applicants who meet all requirements based on home, family and lifestyle.

The TSA utilizes a variety of large breed dogs, including Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers, and there will occasionally be German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois available. You can request a specific breed but that could lengthen your wait time; applications with flexible preferences may be processed quicker.


The average wait for a TSA dog is three months to a year, and law enforcement and service agencies have priority.

Want more information? Go to this page of the TSA’s website. There may be a wait list, but it’s still good to know all the information ahead of time.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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