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We're Open, Tallahassee: Top Tier K-9, training dogs to smell COVID-19

Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 19:14:15-04

MADISON, Fla. (WTXL) — With the economic uncertainties from the Coronavirus, we here at ABC 27 are shining a light on businesses that are doing their part to help out the community while keeping their business open.

During our newscasts, we're highlighting local businesses that are still open, despite the coronavirus.

We're highlighting a local K-9 training business that's not only training scent-detection dogs to find drugs, but also to sniff out coronavirus.

Top Tier K-9 training facility is training dogs with multiple different skill sets. Their latest development is preparing their K-9's to sniff the COVID-19 virus.

The dogs are given scent training as a base and then when they are ready for a finalized scent, they are transported to Atlanta for the actual coronavirus scent training, according to Jeff Minder, owner of Top Tier K-9.

“The dogs then go to a secure facility where the dogs and handlers are protected. We keep them clean, we sanitize them, we decontaminate them after we do the searches but we put that odor in their portfolio so they can later detect it,” said Minder.

Puppies from around the world are brought into this facility to go through an intense 12-week foundation class.

Each dog is trained on 50 things that roll up into four functions: police, military, service and protection. Minder says that once a dog has graduated from the foundations course, they go to finishing school, where the dog learns the specifics of what they are needed for.

Top Tier K-9 also offers the opportunity to become a certified trainer. The program is about a year long

“We put a lot of work into these guys and a lot of emotions. You watch them grow from when they were babies and the day they leave, it’s bittersweet you cry a little,” says Alyssa Browning a former student who now works at Top Tier K-9.

Travis Lloyd, a current student, is almost done with his training.

Lloyd was originally introduced to Top Tier K-9 when he received a service dog for himself, after serving eight years in Afghanistan.

“My service animal gives me a sense of confidence and allows me to let my guard down where I haven't been able to in the past,” said Lloyd.

“If I could just train one dog a year, and just help one person with a dog like mine it, would be worth it,” Lloyd added.

There is currently around an eight-month wait for a fully trained dog from Top Tier K-9.

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