Homegrown Dogs Fight Homegrown Bombs

You see them everywhere in America: sniffing out bombs, drugs and bad guys.

Problem is, ever since that fateful day five years ago, there haven't been enough security dogs to meet demand.

"The use of dogs in general has increased drastically since 9/11," says Dennis O'Connor of the Federal Protective Service, a Department of Homeland Security agency that guards federal sites. O'Connor says the increase can be seen at all levels: federal, state, local and even in the private contract world.

Patrick Beltz, who imports and trains bomb-detecting dogs, says that in the old days, he'd train a dozen dogs a year. But, he says, "since 9/11 we're averaging anywhere from 40 to 80 explosive detection teams a year," he says.

And getting the dogs has become an international battle — with prices at the top European kennels, where the best dogs have long been bred, approaching $8,000 an animal.

"When I go to Europe, I've seen Saudis buying dogs there, I've seen Israelis buying dogs there, Chinese military, Malaysian police, it's a bidding war," says Beltz.

That's stiff competition for U.S. police departments, which also import foreign dogs for their canine units.

To get around the bidding wars — and help create a steady supply — the Los Angeles Police Department has decided to grow its own canine corps, becoming the first major police department in this country to breed its own dogs.

From a litter of eight, chief trainer Sgt. Doug Roller picked four puppies with potential to join his 22-dog canine patrol.

"Quite frankly, I've got these dogs doing things that some of my 12-, 13-month-old dogs aren't doing and they're only six months old," says Roller, who is the LA Police Department's chief trainer.

For now it's largely basic training, designed to encourage each dog's natural instincts.

Obedience and discipline come later.

And the program won't totally replace the need for foreign bred dogs, but if all goes well, a young trainee named Ozzy may take the place of 7-year-veteran Rudy — who's been involved in 400 searches and captured 200 suspects.

"We have a lot of dogs that are on the fringe of retirement — if all works out with these dogs, it will be a natural transition from the dogs that are retiring to the new younger dogs coming into the action," says Roller.

Still it's a test — for the dogs and the trainers trying to meet security demands in the post 9-11 world.