Airport Bomb-Sniffing Dog Team Quits

Scott Ishikawa
Scott Ishikawa

By Mari-Ela David

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Dogs used to sniff for explosives in cargo have been pulled from their duties after all six of their handlers walked off the job.

Transportation leaders say the dispute is over money. The bomb-sniffing dog team quit after contract negotiations went sour.

They help protect travelers from terrorism, sniffing for bombs at Honolulu International Airport.

But their noses won't be tracking any scents, until their handlers come to terms over dollars. They're battling it out with their employer, Akal Security.

"The state contract with Akal Security runs through the end of the year so the matter has nothing to do with the expired contract. What we understand is there is a wage dispute between the dog handlers and the security company," said Scott Ishikawa, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation (DOT).

DOT contracts Akal Security to manage the canines. DOT says there is a Plan B.

"For the time being, what we're going to do is make arrangements for other dog handlers to come in to take over the duties for the interim while we hopefully can get this issue resolved," said Ishikawa.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says the absence of bomb-sniffing dogs will not severely curtail operations because there are more than a dozen layers of security to make up for any shortcomings.

"We have technology that can screen some of the cargo. We can physically inspect a lot of the cargo by opening bags and opening boxes and we an walk terminals so while they're very dependable, we like to have them, the reason we have implemented layers of security is in case one fails we have another one," said Nico Melendez, a spokesperson for TSA.

But with airport security operating at less than 100%, transportation leaders say the safety of travelers is their top priority. DOT says the interim bomb-sniffing dogs will take over duties as early as Wednesday.

Melendez said that TSA deployed three emergency bomb-sniffing dogs to help cover duties Tuesday night.