Lonely Planet Writer

You can adopt dogs that failed TSA training for being too nice

If you’re looking to add a furry new member to your family, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have an adoption program for puppies who failed their training. There are many different reasons why dogs can ‘fail’ but being too nice for frontline work is just one of them.

TSA puppies Hoey (L) and Hatton. Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Every so often the TSA updates their Canine Adoption Program with a range of puppies who didn’t have the necessary skills for frontline airport security work and were therefore dropped from the job. The puppies range in age between two and four years old and the TSA warns that they are “highly active and in most cases, untrained and not house broken” but they add “with the proper training and care, they can be great addition to families”.

Before embarking on their first assignment, TSA passenger-screening dogs must undergo an extensive 12-week training programme. They work to deter and detect contraband within airports and other transport systems across the US. Throughout their careers they’re subject to an annual recertification process to ensure they still have what it takes for the job. The TSA says “maintaining the dog’s enthusiasm and sharpness is a delicate balancing act of reward, play and discipline”.

The TSA uses a variety of different breeds including Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers and the dogs are bred either by qualified breeders or canine vendors. Dogs who fail the training program often do so because they’re too nice, too nervous or too shy. Some are easily distracted or have physical disabilities, while others simply just lack the drive. Sometimes the program even tries to house dogs who have retired from their government roles.

A TSA canine on the job. Image by TSA

The adoption process is a lengthy one and it’s important to remember that it’s a commitment. To ensure that dogs are matched with the most suitable owners, there are no same-day adoptions and applicants must be willing to make multiple trips to the base in San Antonio, Texas before they are permitted to take their dog home. Applicants must also provide references, have a fenced-in yard and must not have any plans to move house within six months of the adoption date.

Due to a surge in the waiting list, the TSA recently updated their page to say that they are not currently accepting new applications. Applications are expected to reopen soon. In the meantime, Service Dogs Inc. and Freedom Service Dogs of America also work to house dogs who have dropped out of training, while Mission K9 works to house retired service dogs who want to live out their post-work years in peace and comfort.

Last year, Lulu the dog became a viral sensation after the CIA announced in a series of tweets that the black lab had failed the class of 2017. “We’re sad to announce that a few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors,” the CIA tweeted. “Lulu wasn’t interested in searching for explosives. Even when motivated [with] food & play, she was clearly no longer enjoying herself.” Thankfully, Lulu found a new forever home and is enjoying her new life playing with her owner’s children and “sniffing out rabbits and squirrels”.