Purina has donated £100,000 to Medical Detection Dogs (MDD), to support the charity's training and potential deployment of COVID-19 sniffer dogs in public spaces.

The company is also working with the UK charity to call for the creation of international standards in the training and deployment of sniffer dogs.

Earlier this week, Medical Detection Dogs announced the findings of its research on scenting COVID-19, confirming that dogs can play a major role in public safety through their ability to detect the virus’ odour.

Researchers will now move to trial the dogs at sites such as ports of entry and public spaces, where dogs can screen individuals rather than samples and contribute to the fight against the virus by detecting COVID-19 carriers.

Sniffer dog schemes are currently being piloted in countries including Finland, Russia, Italy and France, but there is currently no centralised best practice process for such programmes.

Medical Detection Dogs and Purina are calling for:

  • Time limits on deployment, to ensure that a COVID-19 detection dog will only be operationally deployed for approximately four hours over the course of an eight-hour working day. Each dog will also ideally be limited to 20-minute shifts to prevent fatigue and ensure reliable performance
  • Common standards on housing for dogs to ensure dogs are not stressed or distracted by close interaction with people
  • Agreed guidance for the training and deployment of future schemes around the world

Medical Detection Dogs founder and CEO Dr Claire Guest said: “Sniffer dogs have the potential to make an important contribution to the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. Researchers around the world are urgently working to meet that need, but it is vital that we collaborate, share the knowledge we have gained on the incredible abilities of our dogs and formalise best practice in training and deployment.

"Along with Purina we want to call for international collaboration between organisations around the world on the implementation of disease detection and research. Our vision is to guarantee that dogs are well-treated and consistent in their performance, and support the reliable, safe creation of similar schemes in developing countries, where dogs could play a huge role in halting the spread of this disease and future pandemics.”

Jeff Hamilton, CEO at Nestlé Purina PetCare EMENA, said: “Purina and Medical Detection Dogs share a belief in the positive role and impact of dogs in society.  These dogs could provide fast, effective and non-invasive diagnosis and help to create safer spaces for us all, but we should ensure that each of them is trained safely, humanely and able to effectively perform their important role in detecting COVID-19."

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