The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is always training new service dogs to take on the important tasks of sniffing for explosives at U.S. airports. But like all service dog training programs, not all dogs make the cut. Some may lack interest in their assigned task; others tend to become stressed by the high-intensity lifestyle. Occasionally, a dog is just too friendly to focus on work.
TSA Applications on Hold
As of 2022, the TSA is not accepting new applications for adoption due to an already extensive waiting list and a limited number of available dogs. They recommend checking their website periodically for news and updates.
What to Know About TSA Dogs
Dogs who have failed TSA training can still make fantastic pets. Some of the reasons dogs fail the training—they’re too people-friendly, for example—are the very things that make them excellent animal companions.
Here are a few things to consider before attempting to adopt a dog from the TSA:
- Most of the adoptable dogs are young (about two to four years old). Older retirees are less commonly available through the program.
- To be selected for TSA Canine Training Center in the first place, puppies must present two important qualities: high energy and drive. That means they need owners who are committed to providing regular, vigorous exercise.
- Trainees rarely receive instruction other than explosives detection. They get no "basic" training; most of the dogs aren’t even housebroken. That means you’ll have to be ready to put in a little bit of work to acclimate a dog to your household.
- Any dog adopted through the program may require obedience training. Most of the dogs have not been around small children or any animals besides fellow large-breed dogs.
- All of the TSA’s dogs are vaccinated, and they are spayed or neutered before being advertised for adoption.
- Only seven breeds of canines are admitted to the program: German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, German Short-Haired pointers, Wirehaired pointers, Vizslas, Belgian Malinois, and Golden Retrievers.
Do You Qualify to Adopt a TSA Dog?
Not all families are a good fit for failed service dogs, so the TSA has set requirements for prospective owners. According to the TSA:
- You must have a fenced-in yard at the time of applying.
- There should be no intentions of moving within six months of adopting a dog.
- Homes must abide by all local pet ordinances.
- You must agree to provide the dog with appropriate medical care, exercise, training, and companionship.
- All existing pets in the home must have current vaccinations and preventive care.
- The age of children in the home will be taken into consideration when selecting a dog.
If you live in a condo in the city or have young kids, it's unlikely that you will be approved to adopt through the program.
- At any given time, the TSA has about 160 dogs and puppies being trained for explosives detection. About 83% of them graduate.
- Prospective owners must travel to the dog's location to pick it up. All adoptions are handled out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas.
- There are no same-day adoptions through the TSA. This means you’ll need to allow multiple days for meeting the available dogs and finding the right fit for your family.
- Dogs cannot be returned to the training center once they’re adopted, so the TSA will work with you to ensure you find a dog who seems like it will do well in your home.
- It is free to adopt a dog through the TSA Canine Adoption Program. However, keep in mind that you will be required to travel to Texas to adopt your dog, and you will likely need to spend money on training in addition to your standard dog-care costs.
- You will be required to sign an Indemnity Agreement upon the adoption of a TSA dog. This agreement states that you accept all future risks and consequences of the dog and that you agree to pay for all future care. Per the agreement, you must keep the animal as a pet and cannot sell it.
Before you apply, make sure that you’re prepared for the level of care that will be required and that your family is ready for a large, highly-active animal. That includes a dedication to training, and the ability to work in plenty of play and exercise.