Handler Michael Segreto and his canine bomb-sniffing companion, Pio, with Tom Hickey, Detection Field Trainer from NYC (Photo: Kathy Kahn)

Orangeburg Welcomes New Canine Training Facility

By Kathy Kahn

A commercial business park may seem to be an unlikely place to find man’s best friend coming to work—but seven bomb-detecting dogs (accompanied by their handlers) greeted company owners and media to a new training facility on Ramland Road.

The dogs, canine bomb detectors, train under MSA, headquartered in New York City; the company’s work takes it to 42 states and 30 different countries. Since the Big Apple is always on high alert, MSA Chairman Michael O’Neil looked north to Rockland to build another facility so handlers would be closer than the MSA facility in Connecticut.

Chosen as puppies to become part of their handler’s family, the dogs are trained to sniff out the ingredients essential to would-be bombers. The ingredients used at the training facility are inert and pose no danger to the facility or the public, but training centers are needed to continually keep the dogs on high alert to the odor of the five different substances that go into the lethal (and illegal) construction of bombs.

O’Neil and his staff chose Orangeburg, just 15 miles from the border of NYC. “This is a great location for us,” he said. “And the need for a closer training facility to the city was imperative.” MSA is certified by the ATF (Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms—and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department). It has over 600 teams of handlers and a staff of 1,300.

The handlers who brought the dogs to their new training site were happy to have a place “closer to home” than Connecticut, even though some hail from Staten Island and New Jersey. “This facility is fantastic,” said handler Michael Segreto, accompanied by his Labrador Retriever, Pio. Pio lives with Segreto, his wife and daughters, and the bond between handler and dog is key to their success and attention to duty.

The floor of the training facility had several empty cans (with one or two containing materials the dogs are trained to sniff out) as well as pallets of boxes and other containers used to conceal the deadly ingredients for the dogs to root out. Pio is trained to sniff out the contents of trucks.

“We are constantly reinforcing the dogs’ senses—and this is the kind of facility we bring them to so they will remain sharp and alert,” said Segreto. After a training session, the entire facility is disinfected to remove any unwanted trace of odors, so the next batch to come for training comes into a contaminate-free facility.

Orangetown Supervisor Chris Day and MSA Security Chairman Michael O’Neil of MSA Security (Photo: Kathy Kahn)

“Because the materials are separated and non-combustible, they’re no danger to the public,” said O’Neil. “We have spent a lot of money to keep this place secure and clean so the dogs can concentrate on their job. There are no homes nearby and no reason for anyone to worry, since all the materials are inert and aren’t going to blow up—we want to make sure these dogs aren’t distracted by any kind of odor other than what they are trained to look for: bomb-making equipment.”

Segreto says he and Pio share a wonderful bond. “He is wonderful with my family, gentle and easy to get along with. But when he is at work, Pio does his job and is not aggressive, but handlers want the dog by their side or working at all times. They’re trained to work and not lose focus on the job, so we encourage people not to distract them from duty.”

“We’re happy MSA chose Orangeburg,” said Police Chief Nulty. “So much goes into protecting the public, and these dogs and their devoted handlers are invaluable. It’s wonderful our town was chosen to host the training facility.”

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