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Japan's sniffer dogs are security workers' best friends in lead-up to Osaka G-20

Detector dog Albert sniffs the luggage of arriving passengers at Kansai International Airport on June 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Yusuke Komatsu)

OSAKA -- The western Japan prefecture of Osaka is beefing up security as it prepares to host the Group of 20 Summit of leading rich and developing nations, enlisting teams of canines to help sniff out explosives and other prohibited materials at airports and other locations and ramp up security.

Osaka Prefectural Police dogs, customs sniffer dogs that can detect explosives and illegal drugs, and quarantine detector dogs from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are putting their noses to work at Kansai International Airport and other locations under the guidance of their handlers.

There are about 130 sniffer dogs at customs points across Japan. The number of these canines has been stepped up at the airport and other areas under the jurisdiction of Osaka Customs in the lead-up to the G-20 Summit. At one detection area near Osaka Port, 3-year-old German Shepherd Aizen was seen sniffing items for traces of explosives, while 5-year-old Labrador Noir searched for illicit drugs. Both dogs appeared nervous, but perhaps because of their gentle personalities, they carefully sniffed around the items they were inspecting.

The dogs were dressed in vests indicating they were on an anti-terror patrol. "We want to stop explosives and chemical substances at the border and prevent any terrorist attacks," a handler explained.

The Kansai Airport Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' Animal Quarantine Service this year increased the number of its quarantine detection dogs to seven. Led by his 29-year-old handler Maki Iwanaga, 7-year-old beagle Albert was busy at Kansai International Airport sniffing the bags of arriving passengers, searching for banned meat products. Iwanaga first met Albert four years ago, when he was in a training facility in the U.S. state of Georgia.

"He looks cute, but he's a reliable partner," she said, praising his ability to quickly detect smells.

In July last year, Osaka Prefectural Police introduced "security dogs" as a counterterrorism measure, and the animals have patrolled Kansai International Airport and major train stations. One of them, a German shepherd named JJ, is not easily frightened, while another canine, known in Japanese as "Reon-go," has a calmer personality. The dogs need good noses to detect explosives in the air, and when it comes to finding suspicious smells in a crowd with their nasal "sensors," it is clear they are no underdogs.

(Japanese original by Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Osaka City News Department)

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