Miami Heat to use coronavirus-sniffing dogs as team plans to bring more fans back
© Miami Heat

The Miami Heat will host some fans in person during upcoming games using coronavirus-sniffing dogs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NBA team announced last week that it will use the specially trained dogs at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The animals have been trained to sit next to an attendee if they detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus. 

If a dog does sit next to an attendee, the person and their party will be denied entry into the arena.

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The team will allow approximately 1,500 season ticket holders to attend Thursday’s home game in Miami against the Los Angeles Clippers, a limit less than 10 percent of the arena’s capacity. 

Fans who are not comfortable around dogs or are allergic to the animals can opt into taking a rapid coronavirus test that can be processed in under 45 minutes. All fans must be screened at the arena and cannot bring proof of a recent COVID-19 test.

The dogs will not signal if an attendee has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Fans will also have to complete a health screening questionnaire and take other coronavirus precautions like wearing a face mask. 

The animals have been used in previous games this season where the team has allowed a small number of guests to attend, such as friends and family of players and staff, The Associated Press reported.

“If you think about it, detection dogs are not new,” Matthew Jafarian, the Heat’s executive vice president for business strategy, said, the AP reported. “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.” 

Coronavirus-sniffing dogs have been used in airports in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and Helsinki, Finland.