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Metallica and Tool are using Covid-sniffing dogs to keep safe on tour

A puppy wearing a medical mask
(Image credit: Yevgen Romanenko)

A number of high profile acts have recruited sniffer dogs to detect traces of Covid-19 in members of their crew and entourage. The dogs, which are trained by Ohio-based company Bio-Detection K9, were used at several recent Metallica and 21 Pilots shows, and will be used on Tool's upcoming tour. 

The dogs aren't used to identify audience members who might be carrying the virus, but sniff anyone with backstage access in order to protect working musicians and crew. They've previously been used to detect the virus at NASCAR events and at games by basketball's Miami Heat. 

“People say, ‘What’s that dog doing?'” Bio-Detection K9 President Jerry Johnson tells Rolling Stone. “It surprises them and they’re pessimistic, but if you understand the instincts of a dog’s behaviour, it makes a lot of sense. Dogs sniff each other to see if that other dog has a virus. We’re training them to look for something they’d be interested in anyway."

According to Bio-Detection K9, the dogs were 98%-99% accurate in identifying carriers in double-blind validation studies.

"In addition, preliminary data indicates that the Covid detector canines were more effective than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at detecting early asymptomatic infections," say the company. "These accuracy levels are right in line with what we have achieved for detecting other pathogens."

As for the testing process itself, entourage members are lined up in socially distanced rows and remove their masks, which the dogs then sniff. The canines are trained to sit down in front of any person they detect as being Covid-positive. 

“Because you have such a concentrated area of odour [in the mask], there’s a higher probability the dogs will find it,” Wade Morrell, CEO of Priority One Canine, told Ohio's WBNS

Sniffer dogs are successfully employed to detect explosives, illegal narcotics, banknotes, and contraband electronic devices. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 35 years in music industry, online for 22. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.