ATF Continues To Put Bite On Explosives

ATF Continues To Put Bite On Explosives
New Explosives Detection Canine Arrives In Buffalo.

Dolly and Senior Special Agent Canine Handler Gerry O’Sullivan
Dolly and Senior Special Agent Canine Handler Gerry O’Sullivan

NEW YORK – -( Ronald B. Turk, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), New York Field Division, announces the addition of a new explosives detection canine to ATF’s enforcement team in Western New York. Dolly, a 16-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever, is fresh out of training with her partner, veteran Senior Special Agent Canine Handler Gerry O’Sullivan. Dolly is the second ATF explosives canine in Buffalo as she replaces Cliff who recently was retired after putting in the maximum seven years (49 in dog years) with O’Sullivan.

Dolly just recently completed a rigorous 16-week training program at ATF’s National Canine Academy in Front Royal, Va., and O’Sullivan joined her for the last 10 weeks where they trained as a team. The National Canine Academy’s trainers imprinted Dolly for the first six weeks of her training, teaching her to detect trace amounts of all types of low explosives such as smokeless and black powders and high explosives such as dynamite and TNT. She can also detect homemade explosives such as flash powder and peroxide based explosives. All ATF canine handlers are special agents and are specifically trained as certified explosives specialists, having specialized training and experience in post blast scenes and explosives recognition, handling, and disposal.

ATF trains both explosives and accelerant detection canines. The dogs are trained for a variety of federal law enforcement agencies including the CIA, FBI, IRS, and U.S. Marshals Service in addition to state and local law enforcement agencies. ATF has also trained and certified several hundred dogs being used in foreign countries. The explosives detection canines are trained and capable of finding improvised explosive devices, commercial and military explosives, explosives residue, post blast debris, firearms, ammunition, spent shell casings, and fireworks. ATF-trained canines provide law enforcement investigators with a very important tool in explosives, firearms, and arson investigations. Once the dogs are trained and certified, they undergo a re-certification process each year.

While Dolly is now out on the front lines, Cliff has not been forgotten. Although he doesn’t pull in a federal pension, he still lives with the O’Sullivans. During his years of service with ATF, Cliff worked on many notable investigations in the Buffalo area involving illegal fireworks, firearms and explosives, and at firearms related crime scenes where he detected shell casings. He was assigned to assist with providing security at many high profile events such as Super Bowls, both Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres home games, and presidential inaugurations. Cliff’s highlight, though, was his live appearance on the NBC Today Show with Katie Couric.

ATF’s canine program, which began in 1986, uses only Labrador Retrievers. The dogs are supplied by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the Guide Dog Foundation, the Canine Companions for Independence and the Puppies Behind Bars Foundation. Cliff was bred through the Guide Dog Foundation, while Dolly was bred through the Puppies Behind Bars Foundation.

ATF’s canines, both explosives detection and accelerant detection, are trained by using the food-reward system. Due of their tremendous inherent sense of smell, the canines are first “imprinted,” or taught to identify the base odors from explosives or accelerants. They are then taught to sit down when they smell the base odor. When a dog properly identifies an explosive or accelerant odor and sits, it is rewarded with food.

ATF-trained dogs have been used successfully in a variety of situations including bomb and gun investigations, as well as in the more traditional protective search and sweep responsibilities. O’Sullivan has been with ATF for 17 years, and has been a canine handler since 2002. He and Dolly will work primarily on explosives incidents but will also assist with illegal firearms trafficking investigations and search warrants where Dolly will be able to sniff out illegal firearms.

For more information about ATF and the explosives canine program, visit the ATF web site

ATF – Is a unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.

We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.

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