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Dogs to screen fans for COVID-19 at Miami Heat games

dvm360dvm360 March 2021
Volume 53

The Miami Heat announced that COVID-19 detection canines will screen fans at all home games. Anyone who’s allergic or afraid of dogs will be offered a rapid antigen test.


There’s been a lot of talk about using scent detection dogs to screen for COVID-19 at large gatherings—now that vision has become a reality.

The NBA recently announced that COVID-19 detection dogs will screen fans before each Miami Heat game at the American Airlines Arena, according to the NBA website. Miami Heat is the first NBA team to implement this new protocol. According to an NBC Sports article, team management has spent the last few months testing out this screening method with hopes of creating the safest experience for all attendees.

How it will work

Upon arrival, fans will be ushered into designated screening areas where social distancing will be enforced. Dogs will walk past each fan. If the dog doesn’t signal a sign of infection, the fan is cleared to attend the game. However, if the dog stops and sits down, the fan and their entire party will be denied entry. Parents are permitted to hold children and babies during this screening process. Anyone allergic to or afraid of dogs will be offered a quick antigen test, which will be processed within 45 minutes. Additionally, anyone who falls ill during the game will be led to an isolation room.

In addition to dog sniffing, fans will be required to fill out a health-screening survey; anyone age 2 and up will be required to wear a mask at all times. Gone are the days of hot dogs and pretzels at Miami Heat games, well for now. The arena will only sell water and sodas via a cashless payment system.

How effective our COVID-sniffing dogs?

During the pandemic, researchers have sought to determine the efficacy of COVID-19 detection dogs. In a preliminary French study, 8 German shepherds detected COVID-19 using 198 armpit sweat samples. Overall, the dogs accurately determined the presence of the infection in an average of 95% of samples; half of the dogs identified a positive sweat sample 100% of the time.

Finnish researchers took on a different approach and trained dogs to differentiate between positive and negative COVID-19 urine samples. They concluded that the dogs were able to identify the virus before people were symptomatic. It’s still unclear how much impact trained dogs will have on helping to stop the spread of the virus, mainly because studies have been small and some have yet to become peer-reviewed.

For additional research on this topic, go here. To learn more about the Miami Heat’s new COVID-19 protocols, go here.

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