Miami Heat Will Use Coronavirus-Sniffing Dogs To Allow Some Fans Back Into The Arena

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Daniel Baldwin Contributor
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The Miami Heat will begin to utilize coronavirus-sniffing dogs as part of its security team as the organization prepares to welcome some fans back to its arena, according to ESPN.

The organization announced its new COVID-19 safety plan last week, which includes COVID-19 detection dogs. As fans are brought to a screening area, a detection dog will sniff each fan. The dogs have been trained to sit down if they sense the presence of the coronavirus. If a fan is flagged by the dogs, the fan’s entire group will not be permitted entrance to the game.

“If you think about it, detection dogs are not new,” Matthew Jafarian, the team’s executive vice president for business strategy, told ESPN. “You’ve seen them in airports, they’ve been used in mission-critical situations by the police and the military. We’ve used them at the arena for years to detect explosives.”

The Heat are the first NBA team to employ this strategy. A study in France and Lebanon has shown that canines are capable of detecting the virus through human sweat. COVID-19 detection dogs have been utilized in airports by the United Arab Nations and Finland. (RELATED: New Smart Collar Allows Owners To Translate Dog Barks)

“Researchers are finding that specially trained dogs can detect COVID on humans quickly and accurately,” Jafarian said.

Miami will welcome back ticket holders on Jan. 28 against the Los Angeles Clippers. The organization will cap attendance at under 2,000 fans, according to ESPN. This is less than 10% of the capacity of American Airlines Arena.

The team also implemented a mask mandate for anyone over the age of two for fans in attendance. They banned all eating and drinking in the arena bowl as well.

Jafarian emphasized that the organization wanted to be proactive in finding ways to get fans back in attendance safely.

“We don’t want to just sit around and hope that sports returns to normal,” Jafarian told The Washington Post. “We realized that we’ve got to be innovative, and we’ve got to have strong execution if we want to provide a safe environment.”

If a fan is allergic to dogs, the Heat are offering an alternative screening process. In this case, the fan would have to submit a rapid antigen test. These tests can be processed in about 45 minutes, according to ESPN.

Jafarian claimed that these extra security measures will make Heat home games safer than traveling and eating out.

“We truly believe it’s going to be safer in our arena than getting on an airplane, sitting next to all these people who aren’t tested, or eating at a restaurant, where everybody’s not masked — it’s going to be safer than all those things,” Jafarian said to the Washington Post.