Demand for bomb-sniffing dogs up after Boston Marathon attack

(CBS News) WINDSOR, Conn. - After the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI arrested two friends of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for allegedly hiding evidence in the case -- a backpack and a laptop removed from Tsarnaev's dorm room and tossed in the trash. On Thursday, afederal grand jury indicted Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov -- both 19 -- on charges they obstructed justice. The bombing has also led to a spike in enrollment at a school that prepares uniquely-qualified students for a career in security.

At a 10,000-square foot warehouse in Windsor, Connecticut, thirteen Labrador Retrievers and four German Shepherds are in special training.

Merry, a three-year-old Lab, was taught by Zane Roberts to locate various bomb-making materials.
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Zane Roberts is the lead trainer at MSA Security, a private company that trains bomb-sniffing dogs. "The demand for these dogs is tremendous," he said, adding the demand came following the attack in Boston.

Zane Roberts, the lead trainer at MSA Security, said that the presence of a bomb-sniffing dog makes people feel safe.
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Since the Boston Marathon bombings, business has increased about 30 percent at MSA. They have nearly 200 dog teams at locations across the country and expect to have 25 more by the end of the year. The trainers are all former members of the military or law enforcement. They protect everything from financial institutions to professional baseball games.

"The presence of an explosive detection canine really does make people feel safe," said Roberts. "It's a great deterrent effect. For people who want to bomb a location or whatever -- if they see a dog, they're going to go somewhere else."

The Pentagon spent six years and $19 billion researching high-tech bomb detection systems. But it concluded that the best bomb detector is still a dog.

"If you took a machine and tried to search all that luggage as fast as I can search it with one dog," said Roberts, "I'd beat you every time."

Roberts has taught Merry, a three-year-old Lab, to detect a wide variety of bomb-making materials. Most of the dogs at the school failed at becoming guide dogs because they were too energetic and easily distracted by smells. That's what makes them ideal for detecting explosives. Labs in particular have a strong food drive, which is why food reward training works so well.

Basic training takes about 12 weeks. Roberts said that when dogs graduate from this one-room schoolhouse, he's always sad to see them go.

"I often can't remember the handler's name," said Roberts. "But I can never forget the dog's name."

But he'll soon have to learn new names, because important jobs are waiting for all of these good dogs.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.