New bomb-sniffing dogs to protect VTA public transit

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- For the first time, the Valley Transportation Authority, in partnership with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, will have two canines dedicated to sniffing for explosives on public transit. We got a rare behind-the-scenes look Tuesday afternoon as the dogs underwent some training aboard a light rail train.

Nala and Yoshi, both two-year-old Labradors, have been training for about 10 weeks. The canines will now work full-time as part of the transit patrol with a singular focus on detecting explosive devices.

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"Being around crowds, or in crowds, or through crowds, isn't a problem for these dogs, cause they've been tested for it," said Mark Rispoli, owner of North Bay-based Makor K-9 Training Center.

The canines will proactively sweep buses, trains, and stations throughout their shifts, all with the goal of keeping people safe.

"We don't have to worry about the dogs biting anybody, because they're friendly and what their sole purpose is to do is to sniff out (18) explosive odors," said Nala's handler, Sheriff's Deputy Marcus Barbour.

The dogs' arrival comes as the South Bay prepares to host major holiday events such as Christmas in the Park in San Jose and the College Football Playoff National Championship in Santa Clara.

"All transit systems are at risk for terrorism and bombings, and these dogs were purchased using federal homeland security money," said Sheriff Laurie Smith.

Holly Perez, spokesperson for the Valley Transportation Authority added, "They're definitely strengthening our transit patrol system, and really patrolling the 346 square miles that we have with VTA bus and light rail."

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The deputies are both new to being K9 handlers, which is an exciting opportunity that comes with a lot of responsibility.

"I would equate it to having a new child now. She's brand new to me. We're learning what she likes, what she doesn't like," said Dep. Brian Tanaka, Yoshi's handler.

Nala and Yoshi will officially begin their new roles on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
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