Sniffer dogs are being trained to sniff out Covid-19 on humans and could become a mainstream security service provision by Easter 2021, according to some in the industry.
The sniffer dogs have been trained by the charity Medical Detection Dogs and were on trial at London Paddington train station last month. It is hoped that if the trials are successful, the dogs will be able to work for real in early 2021.
Lilly Moss at security guard company Guards.co.uk, which is using the trained dogs, said: “Training is currently taking place to enable them to actually sniff out those carrying Covid-19 in busy areas.”
She added: “The Covid-19 sniffer dogs take less than one second to sniff out the virus, and have been successful in detecting the virus even when no symptoms have been showing.”
If enough dogs could be trained up, the thinking is that Covid-19 sniffer dogs could become a regular sight at train stations, shopping centres and public spaces.
“We have already had enquiries from some large shopping centre clients about how we could integrate sniffer dogs into the regular patrols – they are jumping on every resource they can to keep open and trading,” said Moss.
Andrew Hulbert, managing director of Pareto, told Facilitate that sniffer dogs would "certainly [be] a consideration for future tenders".
He said: “It’s an intriguing development to see how these dogs have been further trained to support the fight against Covid-19. I can see a genuine application of the canines to help make people safer in various environments especially in relation to operating in a similar way to how dogs operate when searching for drugs, explosives, money etc. It may be that it becomes commonplace to see Covid-19 sniffer dogs in train stations, airports, football stadiums etc, alongside the usual trained hounds.”
Hulbert added that “early detection of the symptoms is key to finding those with the virus to enable them to isolate quickly. If the sniffer dogs could track those who are yet to show symptoms, especially in busy public spaces, then the ability to help people detect and quarantine would be sped up significantly”. He added that if this was applied to the workspace “there is a further benefit to this in terms of the opportunity to link this exercise to enhancing wellbeing in the workplace” as previous studies have shown that dogs in the workplace can reduce stress and boost morale.