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ATF holds canine certification event at Del Mar fairgrounds

At a three-day training and evaluation session in Del Mar last week, canine security teams attended the National Odor Recognition Test (NORT) hosted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). ATF is the national law enforcement agency charged with training explosives, firearms and accelerant detection canines.

The goal of NORT is to help trainers identify gaps in training aids, learn about new techniques, and practice odor detection.

James James, lead instructor of ATF's odor recognition program, said the NORT process consists of 30 search containers the dogs have to search.


“Out of those 30 search containers, 10 of them contain different explosives.” he said, as dogs searched the metal containers behind him.

NORT also allows handlers to exchange information on trends and best practices with colleagues. They can also ask questions of ATF canine and explosives subject matter experts.

At the end of the training and practice session, teams can elect to perform the official NORT single-blind test administered by ATF forensic chemists. Once trained, the canine teams are assigned to local, state and other federal law enforcement agencies. The teams regularly lend support to investigations and security efforts.

“You have dog teams here that are responsible for protecting federal buildings. You have dog teams that are used for keeping the transportation environment safe. You have dog teams that are used for special events.” James said.

There are 14 scheduled NORTs nationwide. ATF’s canine division trains more than 500 teams annually. Since the program’s inception in September 2005, more than 4,500 federal, state, local and military canine teams have participated in ATF’s NORT training.


Charlotte Radulovich joined the KPBS team as a video journalist in 2022. As a video journalist, she shoots and edits video for our daily newscast, “KPBS Evening Edition,” and online platforms. She previously worked for the San Diego NBC/Telemundo affiliate. She has a passion for storytelling and embracing different cultures. Born and raised in France, she is trilingual – speaking English, Spanish and French. Besides journalism, Charlotte spends time contemplating the ocean and enjoys roller skating.
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