They are man’s best friend. They are also a great asset in securing the Super Bowl in Miami on Sunday.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives K-9 Unit will be out in force on Sunday, securing Hard Rock Stadium from threats seen and unseen. Their power was on full display on Friday when two dogs, Babs and Vegas, were securing the NFL House at Faena Forum – sniffing cars and looking for anything nefarious.
“These particular dogs are explosive K-9’s, and they have a variety of tools that they bring to the table for us,” Robert Cekada, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Field Office, told ABC News. “Not only on the explosive side, but we use them on the investigative side to look for spent shell casings that are recovered in crime scenes.”
Vegas traveled with his owner for 16 hours by car from Louisville to help secure the big game. He is one of only 30 specialized dogs in the country that are trained to sniff for explosives and shell casings.
The dogs have specialized training for 25 weeks just outside of Washington, D.C. In Babs’ case, she was a guide dog but then trained with ATF and is now part of the agency’s SEEK program, which trains dogs to sniff out explosives and shell casings.
“Things that we see with our eyes, she looks specifically with her nose," Special Agent and Explosives Specialist Zane Dobbs told ABC News. “So, the unseen is spotted for her.”
Dobbs trained and is Babs’ handler.
“She’s continually working, looking for explosives, she doesn’t shut it off,” Dobbs continued.
The dogs are used not just for the Super Bowl. When a shooting occurs and ATF is called to investigate, they’ll help the crime technicians find the shell casings from the bullet.
“Very often shootings occur in very high grass or shrubs and shell casings quickly blend into those areas that are very difficult for crime scene technicians to find,” Cekada said. He added they are ‘crucial’ to help with the investigation.
Not only are the dogs trained to help investigate shootings, but they are also able to locate IEDs and other explosives, one of their main jobs in securing the big game.
“K-9’s are trained to locate those particular items that will pose a threat to law enforcement and the public, they do that in a discreet way and alert to it in a discreet way,” Cekada said.
The dogs are trained to not only to sniff explosives on a leash, but also off-leash as well.
“They are truly a positive asset our investigative arsenal,” Cekada said.
Cekada said that on Sunday, law enforcement would be prepared for any challenge having planned for almost 16 months.
“ATF and our federal, state and local partners have spent the past two years preparing themselves for any potential event that may put the public at risk, not only for those attending the Super Bowl, but for the potential citizen that may be looking to enjoy this time of year in South Florida,” Cekada continued.
Public safety is their ‘No. 1 priority, during this event.’
On game day, Dobbs said, the dogs will provide 360-degree coverage of the stadium, to secure the event.