The dogs will be stationed at an employee security checkpoint as part of the 30-day pilot program.

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Miami has become the first city to test COVID-19-sniffing dogs at a United States airport, deploying a pair of trained pups as part of a month-long pilot program.

The two dogs — a Belgian Malinois named Cobra and a Dutch shepherd named One Betta — have been trained to sniff out volatile organic compounds, which are excreted by breath and sweat and produce a scent the dogs can detect, according to Miami International Airport. If a dog thinks someone may have the odor of the virus, that person will be directed to get a rapid COVID-19 test.

The COVID-19 K9 program at Miami International Airport
Credit: Courtesy of Miami International Airport

The dogs will be stationed at an employee security checkpoint as part of the 30-day pilot program. The pilot is being done in partnership with American Airlines.

"This pandemic has pushed us to innovate to stop the spread," Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said in a statement, adding this approach was "thinking outside the box."

To help hone their sniffing skills, the detector dogs were trained by the Global Forensic and Justice Center at Florida International University. The dogs received hundreds of training sessions and achieved accuracy rates from 96% to 99%, according to the airport.

"Being able to apply decades of research in this way, to provide an additional layer of protection to airport employees at Miami International Airport, it's humbling," Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, the FIU provost and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said in a statement. "These dogs are another valuable tool we can leverage to help us live with this ongoing pandemic."

COVID-19 K9 dog at Miami International Airport
Credit: Courtesy of Miami International Airport

Miami isn't the first airport in the world to use dogs to sniff out potential cases of COVID-19. In August 2020, Dubai International Airport deployed the dogs to test samples from travelers visiting the country.

And a month later, dogs were used at Helsinki Airport as part of a voluntary program at an arrivals hall. There, passengers were asked to wipe their skin and place the wipe in a cup, which the dogs then sniffed.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.