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ATF’s Canine Facility Needs to Stay Local

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Washington, July 27, 2018 | Beth Breeding (202-225-5431) | comments
Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, more commonly known as the ATF, houses the National Canine Division facility in Front Royal. Recently, a House Judiciary Committee field hearing was held to highlight the importance of keeping the facility local, instead of moving it as some lawmakers have proposed.
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It’s no secret that the Sixth District is a great place to live and work. But did you also know that it’s an ideal location for training bomb sniffing dogs? Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, more commonly known as the ATF, houses the National Canine Division facility in Front Royal. Recently, a House Judiciary Committee field hearing was held to highlight the importance of keeping the facility local, instead of moving it as some lawmakers have proposed.

Keeping America safe is not a duty these dogs take lightly. For almost two decades, the ATF has trained over 900 explosives detecting canines, 200 accelerant detecting canines, canine teams for 22 countries, and has helped train nearly 3,800 Department of Defense military working dogs. The ATF Canine Center has been located in the Sixth District of Virginia since 2012, and it should stay here due to the area’s pristine conditions for training and the relationship that has been developed with Warren County businesses and the community. It would also be an unjustifiable burden on the taxpayers to move the center, ringing in at an estimated cost of over $40 million.

In 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee requested that the ATF study the practicability of moving the training facility to Huntsville, Alabama. The results provided the ATF and their allies with sufficient evidence to conclude that the facility should not leave Virginia. An independent environmental evaluation was completed, and it was found that if the dogs were moved to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, the facility would be located in an area inundated with accelerant and explosive residue, weakening the dog’s ability to be trained to locate the smallest amounts of ignitable liquids and explosive materials. In other words, you really cannot train dogs to detect bombs and explosives if everything around them smells like bombs and explosives.

The Front Royal facility currently shares a 250-acre site with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The environment is clean, which is essential to the imprinting process the dogs must go through. The space they share also allows for realistic scenarios to be produced. The center is first-class and houses everything they need to continue training these world-renowned canines. The ATF concluded that moving from Front Royal to Alabama “would significantly diminish, and perhaps irreparably damage, the canine program and its mission to protect the public and fight violent crime.”

It would be a massive waste of taxpayer money and pose a significant threat to the dependability of these dogs, thus putting public safety at risk, if the program was moved. Not only would moving the facility threaten the reliability of the dogs, but jobs would be lost, partnerships with other law enforcement agencies would be less accessible, and years of relationship building with nearly 120 local businesses would be erased. There is no logical reason for this facility to move. I hope the ATF will continue to have the opportunity to train these four-legged heroes in Front Royal.
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