There’s going to be some new transit officers at Union Station this fall, except these will have four legs and fur. Metrolinx is bringing on three dogs to work behind the scenes and sniff out suspicious packages.
Previously Toronto Police Service’s detection canines would monitor the station, but now Metrolinx has made the decision to get its own team that would be on call 24/7 and able to investigate a situation within minutes.
“By us having a dog we can fast track the whole process,” said Bill Grodzinski, Metrolinx’s director of transit safety. “They will give us an indication about a particular package and whether we need to escalate it more quickly or whether it’s a bag that a costumer has left behind, which is 99 per cent of the time the case.”
If a package is found to be problematic, that’s when police are called in added Grodzinski.
Currently the canines are going through a 12-week training course, run by Toronto Police Service. The dogs are paired with a Metrolinx Transit Safety Officer and taught to pick out odours associated with dangerous materials. They’re also acclimatized to the noises and crowds at Union Station.
“While we have a robust safety and security program in place, canine teams are proven at deterring danger and enhancing safety,” says Sgt. Cam Cooper, a transit safety training supervisor.
The dogs were picked because of their demeanour and genetic qualities, and have gone through a stringent veterinary exam.
While they’re adorable to look at, Metrolinx discourages the public from trying to pet or play with them. But does encourage the public to come up and talk to the handlers and their dogs.
“It’s important to let our handlers do their jobs for [the public’s] safety — and for the safety of the handlers as well,” said Cooper.