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MTA Opens State-Of-The-Art K-9 Training Center

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has opened the largest K-9 training facility in the country.

CBS2 got an exclusive tour of the MTA Police Department's Canine Training Facility in Stormville.

The 72-acre property is designed to train a select group of dogs to become K-9 officers. Two retired Metro-North train cars and nine city buses are on the site to help train dogs for real life scenarios.

The dogs train for three months for explosives and four months for mass transit tactical training.

"Our top priority at the MTA is ensuring public safety," said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast. "In our post 9/11 world, the MTAPD's specialized Canine Unit is a crucial component of the MTA's overall security strategy. The canine training center will help the MTA honor its commitment to maintain the highest levels of safety and protection for customers, employees and system infrastructure."

"Everything about this sophisticated, 17,000-square-foot facility was designed to train dogs to meet the unique demands of patrolling the MTA's railroads, stations, subways, platforms and buses, making it the only state-of-the-art mass transit-specific canine training center in the nation," said MTAPD Chief of Police, Michael Coan.

Tactical commander Lt. John Kerwick said the dogs are chosen for their unique temperaments.

"My dog he will get up every 15 minutes all night long and patrol my house, then he'll sit down and sleep for 15 minutes, and get back up and patrol again. It's just their nature, that's the kind of dog we want," Kerwick said.

As Kerwick told CBS2's Emily Smith, attention to detail is crucial.

"This is serious work they're doing. This is very serious. We can't make any mistake," he said.

On the site are two retired Metro North train cars, nine former city buses, and an open field all meant to imitate real life scenarios to prepare the dogs for future law enforcement missions.

Inside the facility a CBS2 news team watched as a dog used his sense of smell to detect explosives. The dogs treat the day as a game -- they're rewarded and motivated by toys and praise.

"They don't know they are looking for explosives, and we don't expect them to. They love to work, more than any human does," Kerwich said.

The idea to build the facility came immediately after 9/11.

Officials said the threat to the MTA is focused on explosives. Now, with a place to train the dogs can be easily added to the MTA police force if needed, and even trained before they go to Grand Central or Penn Station.

Officials said it's better for the dogs to practice before heading to the real site.

"Once they are comfortable with this we will increase the pressure and put more and more people around," Kerwick said.

Each dog goes home with a partner, but even then they don't relax.

"My dog C.B. he will get up every fifteen minutes, all night long. Then he sleeps for 15 minutes, then he gets back up again. That's the kind of dog we want," Kerwick said.

Officials said the officers handle thousands of calls a year for unattended packages, and can assist in finding a missing child or suspect.

The dogs train for three months for explosives, and four months to learn the mass transit system.

The MTA facility, which sits on a former farm, has been in the works for five years and cost over $10 million.

A dog can cost up to $10,000. If the budget increases, more dogs and officers can be added.

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