by Daniela Lopez

Labrador happily on hill
Allie / Adobe Stock
Did you know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) trains adorable dogs to help with important tasks such as sniffing out explosives and firearms every year? These dogs are an essential part of ensuring our safety at airports and other transportation hubs. But not all of their trainees make the cut.

The TSA is looking for homes for the pups who didn’t make it through their explosives detection dog training program (or have retired). These pups will likely come with unique challenges. Learn all about TSA dog adoptions.

What types of dogs are available for adoption?

There are a wide variety of dogs available for adoption from the TSA. While the TSA is transitioning to more floppy-eared dogs like Labrador Retrievers, they also train German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois but most of those pointy-eared pups are destined for local police work. The types of dogs available for adoption from the TSA include:

As you can imagine, these working dogs need homes that can continue to provide an active lifestyle. In addition, unlike service dog school dropouts, explosives detection dogs may not be used to a home environment because the TSA’s dogs live in kennels, so expect a considerable adjustment period as they are likely untrained and not housebroken.

How to qualify for TSA dog adoption

All prospective adoptive families must meet a few minimum requirements, fill out an application, and be approved. The main thing the TSA adoption program will look to see is that you’ll be able to commit to providing your future pup with proper medical care, exercise, training, and companionship. The minimum home requirements for qualifying for a TSA dog adoption include:

  • A home with a fenced-in yard.
  • Not planning to move within six months of adopting a dog.
  • Your home should comply with local pet regulations.
  • Existing pets should be up to date on their vaccinations and preventive care.

If your application meets the requirements, then you’ll be added to a waiting list, which typically takes three months to a year. When your turn is up, the adoption coordinator will send photos and information on the available dogs. The coordinator will help match your family with the best pup for your home and will consider the ages of any children when matching you with a dog.

Applying for a TSA dog

  1. Submit application: If you want to adopt a TSA dog, email the adoption coordinator at adoptatsacanine@tsa.dhs.gov. If there are dogs available and you meet their prerequisites, expect an email packed with the next steps.
  2. Check references: Next, they’ll dig into your references. They may talk with other household members and your vet and likely want to see some pics of your home.
  3. Meet the dogs: Once given the nod of approval, you’ll get an info sheet complete with snapshots and profiles of the adoptable dogs. You can schedule an in-person meeting with the dog at their San Antonio, Texas, facility. Keep in mind, that they can’t hold a pup indefinitely.
  4. Make a selection: Because each dog’s personality is unique, it’s important that the chosen dog mesh well with your lifestyle. This means you might need to make a few visits until you find the one.
  5. Complete paperwork: Depending on the dog’s status, processing the adoption can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. You’ll need to sign all the adoption paperwork and set up their microchip.
  6. Adoption day: Once you’ve got a pickup date set, come prepared with a leash, collar, and a crate that fits just right. The TSA will provide a month’s supply of flea and heartworm prevention, three days’ worth of kibble, and all their medical records.

Cost to adopt a TSA dog

Adopting a TSA dog is free, but if your application is approved, you’ll need to pick the dog up from the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas. The dogs will not be shipped, so it’s important to consider that cost. And the application process may require you to make multiple visits to the base, so those transportation costs can quickly add up.

Considering adopting a dog?

Adopting a TSA dog is not for everyone. But if you’re on the hunt for a pup that comes with a bit of training, you’re in luck. Many local rescues and animal shelters offer pre-adoption training programs, and older shelter dogs often know a trick or two. Kickstart your search on Adopt a Pet.