Bomb-sniffing dogs are one of the first lines of defense at airports.

By Jess McHugh
Updated: October 25, 2016
Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens of teams of K-9 bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers failed recertification tests in the period from 2013-2015, according to a special investigation by NBC. Transport Security Administration authorities insist, however, that these rates are still low considering the total of number of K-9 teams, maintaining that the system ensures passengers' safety.

Dog teams across the country passed 87 percent of tests, according to data from the TSA released to NBC News. The failure rate varied greatly from airport to airport, with Dallas Love Field teams failing at a rate of 30 percent and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport teams failing at a rate of just 3 percent.

The dogs used at Dallas Love Field are a combination of TSA-trained teams, TSA-funded teams, and local police teams.

Canines and their handlers undergo a 10- to 12-week training course, according to a TSA video report from June. These highly trained dogs are skilled at detecting explosive odors, making these teams “one of man’s most effective resource[s] in combating terrorism,” according to the video.

The recertification tests are required annually, and any team that fails the test cannot be put back to work until they are re-certified.

Out of nearly 1,000 teams across the country, eight have been fully decertified, Mike England, a national spokesman for TSA, told Travel + Leisure.

“If a team does not meet TSA's rigorous guidelines, it is decertified and restricted from working,” England told T+L in an emailed statement. “In such cases, the dog and handler are assigned to an expert trainer to help correct identified deficiencies and the team must successfully meet certification standards before returning to search duties.”