Miami Heat Hires COVID Sniffing Dogs for First Home Game With Fans

heat covid dogs

Getty Mali, a Belgian Malinois British Military Working Dog wearing the PDSA Dickin Medal and his handler Corporal Daniel Hatley on November 17, 2017 in London, England.

The Miami Heat is inviting fans to the AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time in 323 days on January 28. While it won’t be a sold-out crowd, they are restricted to allowing under 2,000 fans, and the Heat’s home court can sit 19,600 people– it’s an exciting start for a return to normalcy in a post-coronavirus world.

To screen fans entering the arena, the Heat hired COVID-19 sniffing dogs: Abby, Tina, Happy, and Magni, as reported by the Sun Sentinel. All four dogs are the breed of Belgian Malinois, and led by a trainer, they will sniff every spectator before they can enter the arena.

The dogs were trained at Florida International University under a program led by Dr. DeEtta Mills, according to TMZ. The outlet also noted that these special canines could soon be employed at security checkpoints in airports.

GettyOfficer Robert Corchardo and his bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois “Rody” of the Los Angeles International Airport police division conduct random checks of luggage for explosives at the airport in December 2003.

“Before Miami, virus-sniffing dogs were already being used to detect COVID-19 in Chile, United Arab Emirates and Finland,” TMZ reported. “Researchers say the highly-trained dogs detect the disease with almost 100% accuracy.”

What Happens if a Dog Signals that a Ticketed Guest Has COVID-19?

GettyBam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat and Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans tip-off a preseason game at American Airlines Arena on December 14, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the game was played without fans in the arena.

If Happy, Tina, Magni, or Abby signal a Heat fan as having coronavirus, they will not be allowed into the AmericanAirlines Arena, nor will any members of their associated party. The canines are trained to alert authorities of people who are infected with COVID-19. Guests who have received the vaccine will not be flagged.

For those who would prefer not to be checked out by the Heat’s four-legged employees, they can opt for an alternative screening method, which can take up to 45 minutes, at no extra cost.

GettyA detail view of coronavirus signage prior to the game between the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans at American Airlines Arena on December 25, 2020.

Once inside the arena, more precautions are in place to keep fans and employees safe. Everyone must adhere to social distancing rules and mask-wearing is required. For more information about what happens if you’re deemed ineligible to enter the arena, the Heat issued a comprehensive Q&A on NBA’s official website.

Coach Spo Is Thrilled to Finally Have Fans Back in the Arena

GettyHead coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat looks on during the second half of the game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on January 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.

While the addition of fans in an arena is thrilling for the players, Heat’s head Erik Spoelstra is also excited.

“We think it’s an incredible step,” Spoelstra said. “I’ve said before we have to continue to be vigilant, and do things with discipline, with a lot of thought -— and always keep in mind health and safety as a No. 1 factor but having people in the building, that’s what our guys play for, for the fans, and to have a little bit of that environment should be good.”

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