WEST JORDAN (News4Utah) – Nearly two dozen K9 teams were put to the test Wednesday morning to see how well they could sniff out explosives.
Newly trained and experienced canines from 12 agencies in Utah participated in the National Odor Recognition Test (NORT) at Unified Fire Authority. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) conducts about 12 NORT sessions a year nationwide. This is the first time ATF has held the test in the state of Utah.
The test follows three days of training and evaluation, where K9 teams learn about to identify gaps in training aids, inadvertent training aid contamination, and practice odor detection in a professional training environment.
“This is a test Congress mandated ATF to provide to federal, state, and local explosive detection dogs to see if they can detect ten basic explosive odors,” said Cody Monday, instructor and K9 trainer for ATF’s Canine Training and Operations Support Branch.
The test involves K9 handlers taking their dogs through a series of cans, consisting of both actual explosive odors and distractor odors. In order to pass the test, the dog must respond to each explosive odor.
“They usually go through a strict vetting process to make sure the dog is capable of this type of work. The dog has to be hearty and it has to have a drive for either food or a ball as their reward,” said Monday.
Mike Montmorency was one of the K9 handlers at Wednesday’s NORT session. He’s been working with K9s for the Unified Fire Authority’s Bomb Squad since 2006.
“We spend more time with our dogs than we do with our families, so we’re basically with the dogs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The dogs go to work with me in the morning, they come home with me at night so you end up spending a tremendous amount of time with the dogs,” said Montmorency.
This was Montmorency’s third time putting one of his dogs, Belle through the test. He said one of the hardest things about being a trainer is patience.
“Some days can be extremely frustrating, sometimes the dogs can have a mind of their own,” said Montmorency.
But despite the frustrating days, he said being a K9 handler is his favorite part of his job. He’ll be retiring one of this K9s, Alley later this year.
“It is rewarding because you know that dog worked successfully, it provided public protection safety for years and did a good job doing that and they deserve to have a retirement, they deserve to have a couple years at the end of their life where they can just be a dog,” said Montmorency.
If a K9 failed the NORT, they will have a second chance on Thursday. The certification lasts for two years.
“After they get done with something like this, they’ll move onto vehicles, fields, warehouses, and venues. That’s how they become better, just through repetitions,” said Monday.