If you've ever experienced walking through TSA (Transportation Security Administration ) with children, then you've probably experienced a mix of emotions on your children's faces during the experience. For kids with dogs at home, the typical German Shepards probably didn't bother them much, but for children not accustomed to having dogs around them on a daily basis, this can be a little bit scary - no matter how sweet they actually are. Because of this, the TSA announced earlier this week that they will be implementing a new strategy with the dogs they are using so they don't upset children.
Apparently, it all boils down to the shape of the dog's ears. Pointy-eared dogs (ahem, German Shepards) tend to scare little kids, while floppy eared dogs have a more welcoming effect. So the TSA is switching things up and discontinuing the use of pointy-eared dogs and will now only be using floppy eared dogs at security checkpoints in an attempt to reduce fear in children.
While that seems like a huge amount of turnover (and a lot of doggies going into retirement), the facts are that currently, only about 20 percent of the TSA’s 1,200 dogs have pointy ears. The breeds they are currently using are mostly German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Their focus over the past few years has been focused on acquiring more “sporting” breeds with droopy ears such as Labrador retrievers, Vizslas, and golden retrievers.
If this sounds kind of like a dramatic (and sad) change to you, don't worry. The TSA has informed the public that not all of the pointy-eared dogs will automatically be replaced with floppy-eared breeds. Their assistant administrator for strategic communication and public affairs, Michael Bilello, shared that each dog will be evaluated on their skills and demeanor before deciding whether to retire them.
The main goal here is for the dogs they use not to be as intimidating as the current breeds they are using. And the facts are that it's not just children who are fearful of dogs, many adults can get frazzled, too. They are aiming for the whole TSA experience to be more inviting and welcoming overall.
And if you're worried about what will happen to all the pointy-eared dogs, rest assured that they will still have jobs. All of the "police breed" dogs will be doing things like detecting bombs and checking luggage versus dealing with customer interaction.