MSA Security in December became the first company certified under the Transportation Security Administration’s new third-party program to allow explosive detection canines screen air cargo and the company’s K9 program is in the midst of a significant expansion to meet the screening demand.

MSA’s has more than 500 K9 teams operating in the U.S. and internationally providing screening services for various customers such as sporting events, ferry services, and others, and by the end of 2019 expects have more than 200 teams as part of the third-party canine program under TSA’s certified air cargo screening effort, Marc Murphy, director of Air Cargo and Aviation for MSA, tells HSR in recent interview. Currently, the company has 25 K9 explosives detection teams certified to the TSA standards for the third party screening program, he says.

New York-based MSA supplies the handler and the dogs and provides them as a service to its customers.

The company operates five regional training centers around the U.S. and throughout 2019 plans to add five additional training centers nationwide. The facilities are allowed to house high explosives, allowing MSA’s K9 teams to train on actual explosives and stay in condition and ready. Murphy said the additional facilities will also help MSA meet demand for its K9 air cargo screening services.

TSA was mandated by Congress in 2007 to establish a system for industry to screen 100 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft before it is loaded onto the plane. The mandate was met in 2010, mostly using various types of screening technology. TSA-certified explosive detection K9s were allowed to be used to meet the air cargo screening program but the agency only had a limited number of teams available and these were also used for other screening demands.

The new third party K9 screening program will allow companies to offer their services to the air cargo industry.

Murphy said some of the key advantages of using K9 explosive detection teams are their efficiency, accuracy and speed in the air cargo environment, noting that a pallet or container of various items may not need to be broken down to its piece parts to be screened by a dog. If a customer selects K9 screening, they will still there are still alarm resolution protocols that will require secondary measures such as technology, he added.

Bomb sniffing dogs are considered to be the most effective means at detecting explosives.

TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Facility-Canine program was mandated by Congress as part of the TSA Modernization Act of 2018 passed by Congress last fall. Under the program, the agency has developed standards for the use of third-party canines for air cargo program. While the legislation is new, TSA has been developing the standards for years.