‘Messed Up’: California Schools Allowed Dogs to ‘Sniff-Test’ Masked Children for COVID

Researchers trained dogs to sniff masked and socially distanced children in a lineup to identify whether they had COVID-19, according to a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics this week.

The researchers trained two medical alert dogs to identify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by people with COVID-19. Then they piloted the trained dogs using more than 1,500 school children ages 9 through 17 at 27 California schools.

Many of the children were sniffed by the dogs on at least two occasions.

Commenting on the study, Vinay Prasad, M.D., MPH, tweeted: “Surely there is some downside to learning you have COVID lined up like criminals from a disease sniffing dog.”

On days when COVID-19 schools conducted antigen testing, the researchers lined up child volunteers, who were wearing masks, standing 6 feet apart with their backs to the dogs. The dogs sniffed each child around the ankles and feet.

If a dog detected COVID-19, it would sit down. Afterward all children were tested using BinaxNOW antigen testing and the results were recorded on a digital platform to “see how the dog did,” according to Prasad.

The dogs accurately identified 85 infections and ruled out 3,411. They inaccurately signaled that a child was infected 383 times and missed 18 infections.

Prasad elaborated on the dehumanizing effect of the experiment, tweeting:

On his Substack, Prasad wrote:

“It strikes me as a bit dehumanizing to treat children like this. Especially since ~100% would later go on to develop COVID. The vast majority would get COVID without getting a vaccine.

“Seems that lining them up in the schoolyard, and having a dog sniff them — something I have only been subject to in airports, where I assume they are sniffing for bomb residue or drugs — is a bit extreme.”

He also wondered how it might affect kids if others saw the dogs diagnosed them with COVID-19.

“I worry how a child might feel if they go to school feeling fine, and the dog sits down beside them. Their classmates — even though they are told to face away — will still know. The dog will stop moving.

“And let’s be honest, kids will look around. Did they pull the kid from school then? Did any kids start crying? Seems messed up to me. Why did they have to do this with children?”

During the pandemic, there was widespread reporting of the mental health problems children faced for a variety of reasons, including the stigma associated with COVID-19.

Children targeted as ‘perpetual spreaders’ of disease

Children were subject to many pandemic measures since found to have damaged their health and well-being.

Innumerable articles reported on the devastating effects of remote learning for learning loss in children across the U.S. and the world.

But many of the damaging pandemic measures also happened while children were at school.

In 2021, a group of U.K. medical professionals called out the government for the damage COVID-19 policies caused to children by mass testing, writing:

“Repeated testing of children to find asymptomatic cases who are unlikely to spread virus, and treating them like some sort of biohazard is harmful, serves no public health purpose and must stop.”

Studies show that mask-wearing creates a deficit in children’s speech and language development and their ability to visually process faces. It also impedes their oxygen intake and affects their oral hygiene, among other things.

Former California public school teacher and political analyst Alex Gutentag reported that in addition to the physical health impacts of masking on students, school masking requirements also:

“… sent the message to kids that they were perpetual spreaders of illness, and that they were responsible for protecting adults. Masking at school indoctrinated students into the fiction that they were fundamentally unsafe.”

California, where the dog-sniffing study took place, was one of the most aggressive states in its COVID-19 policies directed at children.

Although California has since abandoned plans for mandatory vaccination for schoolchildren, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October 2021 that California would be the first state to require COVID-19 vaccinations for children to attend school.

It was also the first to mandate school masking and staff vaccination measures.

At the time, state Sen. Richard Pan proposed legislation to strengthen the vaccine requirement even further by eliminating personal and religious exemptions. The legislation didn’t pass.

But before the state ended its plan for a vaccine mandate — likely in response to a series of lawsuits — several school districts across the state attempted to institute mandates and coerced innumerable children into vaccination.

Lockdowns, mask mandates and mass testing of children continued throughout the pandemic, despite the fact that researchers knew since the spring of 2020 that the risk of COVID-19 for children was far lower than for other members of the population.