Paris 2024: Tracker dogs, valued members of the security detail  'X' / POLICE NATIONALE

The French government assures that security will be in place when the Paris Olympics begin in July. However, concerns remain about the availability of sufficient dog units capable of sniffing out drugs, weapons and explosives.

The National Centre for Canine Unit Training (CNFUC) of the National Police, located south-east of Paris, aims to address the shortage of trained dogs in a "somewhat tense market," according to Fabrice Decmann, deputy director of the centre. 

The CNFUC usually receives 160 dogs a year, but only keeps 120. With the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place from 24 July to 8 September, we have stepped up the pace," Decmann said. At the national centre, police officers train dogs to detect explosives, drugs, weapons and money. France is currently under a "terrorist threat" alert following several jihadist attacks since the 2010s. "Our vigilance is maximum, total and absolute," declared Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday. "It will be even more present during the Games, when everyone will be in Paris," Decmann said.

Dog handlers are required to have many qualities, and the failure rate is between 10% and 15%. "We can't afford to have dog handlers doing a rough job with something as sensitive as explosives," says Yann, who has been an instructor for about ten years.

A dog during an operation with the French police. X' / POLICE NATIONALE
A dog during an operation with the French police. X' / POLICE NATIONALE

In January, Valérie Pécresse, the regional president and head of the Paris public transport system, raised concerns with the government about the lack of canine units, with more than 10 million spectators expected to visit Paris during the Olympics. Pécresse warned that changes to the certification process for explosive detection dog teams had led to a "reduction" in the number available and "difficulties in recruiting additional teams". 

Thierry Morio, the director of the National Centre for the Certification in Explosive Detection Canines (Cynodex), chooses to clarify this statement. "The certification success rate is currently 71% overall and 78% in the railway sector," Morio asserts, for whom this is "the only guarantee of a high level of security".

Maxime, a trainee railway safety officer at the CNFUC, agrees: "It's a new test. Of course there will be failures, like with driving licences and other exams, but we are adapting". Dog brigades are vital to the efficiency of public transport. When confronted with abandoned luggage, they can quickly confirm or dispel concerns about the presence of explosives within 10 to 15 minutes. By contrast, the intervention of bomb disposal experts can hold up trains for several hours.