The readiness of the Transportation Security Administration's bomb-sniffing dogs has been called into question by an investigation conducted by NBC News.
Via a Freedom of Information Act request, the outlet found that between January 1, 2013, and June 15, 2015 (the most recent period for which records were provided), K-9 teams at 10 major U.S. airports—including those in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Dallas, and elsewhere—failed annual certification tests a total of 52 times. Some teams couldn't find explosives during testing, while others had too many false alarms that could cause unnecessary airport evacuations.
Overall, TSA's success rate for dog teams during the period was 87%. Teams that fail are pulled out of service and aren't allowed to work in airports again until they pass.
But aviation safety experts are concerned that multiple failures in certain cities—21 in L.A., for instance—could suggest that dogs might not be getting enough training to stay sharp. Since actually finding explosives is extremely rare, K-9 handlers constantly have to stay on guard against dogs losing interest in the job.