Sniffing Out A Safer Future For Live Events

(Andrew Gumper)

A month ago, we covered the launch of a new Covid safety idea (Can These Beagles Save Live Events?) from Andrew Gumper, founder and CEO of AG Production Services, and Heather Junqueira, BS, CVT, a scientific researcher and STEMBioscent founder and president. The concept was to use highly-trained sniffer dogs to check production crews and audiences for the virus before they entered a live event. The dogs, more than 60 trained beagles, can smell signs of the infection from up to 12 feet away and alert security so that any suspected carriers Covid-19 can be isolated and tested before the concert doesn’t become a super-spreader event.

The beagles have now worked their first gigs, and the results have been very successful. Three of the dogs checked audiences entering Triller Fight Club, which took place in Atlanta, and four were used for the Ubbi Dubbi Festival in Texas. The dogs either travel by air in the main cabin as service animals, or by truck, and while they are working they stay in an air conditioned mobile kennel with a play area. Onsite, the dogs work with retired K9 officers who follow Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detection Guidelines.  

Each of the dogs wear harnesses indicating that they are Covid-19 service dogs and, according to Junqueira, they were a welcome presence and not just because they are cute. She says, “Once participants were screened there seemed to be a huge sense of relief. I had several people at the event thank us for being there, the dogs seemed to dramatically drop the stress levels of the people working the event and also attending the event.” Because the dogs simply walk up and down the line and don’t need to lick or touch the participants in any way, the canine covid screening was faster than the general security check and didn’t cause any delays.

Event director Kelly Cobb of Ubbi Dubbi Festival says, “The team of BioScent beagles were a helpful asset to process thousands of festival fans, ensuring staff safety, and protecting our operational ability to open gates. They were a key addition to the Ubbi Dubbi team, and helped us safely produce the first festival back.” The festival posted a message on its website that sniffer dogs would be operating and included an assurance that fans found to be positive and denied entry would receive a full refund. Triller Fight Club, which took place in late April, contacted BioScent after its production team was exposed to someone with Covid.

Valerie Gharavi of Triller Fight Club says, “When we heard about the dogs and their effectiveness, we decided to invest in this extra layer of protection and to help us confirm if our exposed team was able to come back to work. The BioScent team came over night with three dogs and three handlers. They were wonderful to work with and extremely professional. The dogs are sweet beagles which makes everyone excited and happy to be near them, even A-List talent were rolling around with them on the ground.” The dogs worked on the event for five days covering entrances and also roaming the stadium sniffing 750 to 1,800 people per day. They successfully identified several people who were later confirmed to be positive. Gharavi goes on to say, “They are incredibly well trained and safe around children, they even stayed calm during the fireworks.” She also adds that if they had known how effective the dogs were, they could have saved money on on-site covid testing.

While there are other ways to boost event safety—Ubbi Dubbi introduced a fast-track entry lane for attendees with proof of vaccination—future large events will likely need an extra level of health checks that don’t require ticket holders to take tests or provide vaccine passports. The beagles appear to provide an efficient, and non-invasive method to keep everyone safe. And when was the last time you wanted to roll on the ground playing with security?

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