By Janet McAfee

Amazing dogs guide the blind, perform tasks for people with all disabilities, locate people missing in earthquakes, comfort the sick and lonely, and protect our troops in combat zones.  They provide healing love and companionship to us dog lovers who treasure them as family members.  Now, in the midst of the pandemic, they are part of another life-saving miracle.

The Miami Heat basketball team is utilizing Coronavirus-sniffing dogs when they play at American Airlines Arena to screen fans attending their games.  The program began Thursday, January 28, with the team’s matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.  That was the Heat’s first hosted game of the season with fans present, available to just 1,500 season ticket holders.

The Heat released a video telling guests about this new procedure and what they could expect upon arrival at the game.  The video tells fans, “You will be directed to the screening area and asked to put any in-hand items in your pockets and place your hands at your sides.  At that time, a COVID-19 detection dog will screen everyone in line by simply walking past each person.  If a dog signals on you by sitting down next to you, you and your group will be directed out of line and denied entry into the arena.”


If a guest is allergic to or is afraid of dogs, the Heat offers the option to skip the dog screening and submit to a rapid antigen test instead.  “If you think about it, detection dogs are nothing new”, explains Matthew Jafarian, Miami Heat Executive Vice President of Business Strategy, “You’ve seen them in airports, they’ve been used in mission critical situations by the police and the military.  Actually, we have been using them at the sports arena for years to detect explosives.”  The organization has explored using the COVID-19 detection dogs for months previously, voluntarily testing the media, staff, and friends and family of players entering the area.

Research being done in several parts of the world has discovered that specially trained dogs can detect COVID quickly, with an incredibly high degree of accuracy, and in a non-invasive manner.  Using dogs for their strong sense of smell is nothing new.  They are trained in laboratories to detect forms of human cancer, and for the hard to diagnose uterine cancer they have a higher rate of accuracy than traditional laboratory testing.

How can dogs perform such a life-saving and important service?  Their sense of smell can be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans’, depending upon their breed.  Florida International University researchers have an active program currently training more canines to detect the virus with their strong sense of smell.  Their laboratories contain rotating samples of substances passing by the animals, only a few of them containing the virus.  When a dog alerts on a sample with the virus, he is immediately rewarded with a treat.  These highly intelligent animals quickly get the connection.  Also, they have the ability to react to just a small amount of the virus.

The Florida dogs next project will be to sweep through school classrooms to detect the virus on surfaces.  This will better protect students and teachers.  Other countries including France, Finland, and Russia are training dogs to detect COVID.  University of Helsinki researchers have a pilot program at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to check passengers prior to boarding.

Expect to see these virus detecting dogs in the near future at airports and other heavily trafficked venues.  Dogs checking for explosives and drugs are already at work in international airline terminals.  During the recent holiday travel, a passenger exhibiting many flu like symptoms was able to board a United flight getting past the airline’s security and screening systems.  When he collapsed during the flight, several passengers, unaware of his contagious condition, attempted CPR.  The passenger soon passed away, a death later attributed to COVID-19.

Once again, dogs are our heroes!  Is it any wonder they are considered MAN’S BEST FRIEND?  

Below is a partial list of shelters and rescues in the Inland Empire with animals for adoption. They are currently closed for walk-ins, and you must call for an appointment.  You can view most of their animals online before calling.   If you seek a specific breed, you can also check on and put in the breed and your zip code.  Thank you for rescuing!

COACHELLA VALLEY ANIMAL CAMPUS – The county shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt.  You can view the animals at all four Riverside county shelters at, and get the ID number of the animal you want to adopt. Email them the animal’s ID number at, or schedule a virtual adoption appointment at, 72050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644. (Public)

PALM SPRINGS ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt.  They schedule appointments Wednesday through Monday.  View their animals online at, 4575 E. Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, (760) 416-5718. (Public)

ANIMAL SAMARITANS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt.  View their animals at  Email to foster.  Located at 72307 Ramon Rd, Thousand Palms, (760) 601-3918.  (Private)

CALIFORNIA PAWS RESCUE  – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 73650 Dinah Shore, Palm Desert.  View their animals at, (760) 656-8833.  (Private)

HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE COACHELLA VALLEY – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt a dog or cat.  This shelter has lots of big dogs in addition to small dogs and cats. View some of their animals at Located at 17825 N. Indian Canyon, Palm Springs, (760) 329-0203.  (Private)

KITTYLAND – The shelter is closed so call for an appointment to adopt a cat.  Located at 67600 18th Avenue, Desert Hot Springs,, (760) 251-2700.  (Private)

FOREVER MEOW – Foster based  rescue for cats located in Rancho Mirage.  Contact them at, (760) 335-6767. (Private)

PRETTY GOOD CAT – Foster based rescue for cats located in La Quinta.  Contact them at, (760) 660-3414 (Private)

BFF4pets – Foster based rescue for dogs and cats located in La Quinta.  Email them at, (310) 431-7818 (Private)

LOVING ALL ANIMALS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 83496 Avenue 51, Coachella,, (760) 834-7000. (Private)

MORONGO BASIN HUMANE SOCIETY – Located at 4646 Sun View Rd, Joshua Tree,, call between 11am-4pm for updates (760) 366-3786 (Private)

CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt.  Hours for adoption 10am – 4pm Tuesday thru Sat. Google “City of San Bernardino Animal Shelter” for website to view animals and get the ID number of the animal you want to meet.  Located at 333 Chandler Place, San Bernardino, (909) 384-1304 or (909) 384-7272. (Public)

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER AT DEVORE – Shelter closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Call (909) 386-9280 daily.  View animals at and get the ID number of animal you want to meet. Located at 19777 Shelter Way, San Bernardino (Public).

DREAM TEAM ANGELS RESCUE – Foster based rescue located in Grand Terrace/San Bernardino area.  Contact them through website, (360) 688-8884. (Private)