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I am Muslim, getting sniffed by a dog is sort of prohibited in my religion. My family are coming to Europe next month and we are discussing all the tiny details as they haven't traveled outside their home country for a long time.

One of the issues that I advised them with is not to carry coins. 10 years ago I was stopped by a dog AFTER I have passed/cleared by the security queue. I was very late and the aircrew was calling for my name but the officer who guided the dog was very bright that she guessed I had lots of coins and she was right. I showed her the coins and ran to the gate.

Is there anything that my family should do to reduce the chances of getting sniffed by the dogs?

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I have met the "fruit sniffing" dog several times and am aware (from watching Border Security) of currency-sniffing and firearms-sniffing dogs in addition to the classic drug-sniffers. Generally, these dogs sniff people's bags more than people. (The Canadian beagle that met my flight from the Caribbean once sat [the dog's signal] about my bag, but the handler didn't even want to look in the pocket when I said there was no fruit in it. The Australian german shepherd didn't sit and the handler was not interested in looking to confirm when I said there was peppermint gum in the pocket the dog smelled at the most.)

[As an aside, in addition to being more interested in bags than people, the vast majority of these dogs work Arrivals not Departures and are found in the baggage hall. The chances of someone being sniffed on their way to a plane are very low. Still, since you worry about this, let me also add that they should allow plenty of time to get to the plane so that unexpected stop-and-search moments don't result in them being paged to get to the gate and almost missing the plane. I found a 6 minute video that specifically shows cash dogs working in Departures at Heathrow. Watch it and you will hear the handlers tell people "let the dog sniff your bags" (not you) and see that the dogs do not touch the people. You can also see people putting backpacks and other worn-high bags such as purses down towards the ground to let them be sniffed.]

My recommendation to you (and it helps other things as well) is to have your pockets as empty as possible. In my case that means completely empty. Everything, even my boarding pass, money, and cellphone, is in my carry on bag. Make sure that none of your bags [carryon or checked] contain fruit, meat, drugs, thousands of dollars in bank notes, guns, or illicit drugs of course.

Also, have a quick chat with your imam to clarify the difference between going over to someone's home and patting their dog and generally deliberately interacting with a dog vs being in a public place where a working dog approaches you, sniffs you without touching you, and then leaves. The public is not supposed to pat or interact with the sniffer dogs and the dog is not supposed to touch you at all. This conversation may reduce your anxiety about airport dogs a little, which is a good thing, because anxiety in an airport always gets you extra attention. Your imam may also advise you about the washing that is required after a dog has licked (unlikely with a trained professional) or nuzzled you or your possessions. If you need to bring something specific to clean up from the dog contact, have it with you in your carryon, in a size and format that won't cause issues going through security.

Finally if the dog approaches you, put your bag down, stand up, step back from your bag, and hold your arms out a bit - partly to make yourself bigger and partly so your hands are up and away from the dog. Look at the handler, not the dog, and say "please don't let the dog touch me" - the handler should understand that request and be fine with it.

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    OP will know better but to my knowledge it's dog juices that are a problem, not a dog sniffing your bag and not even touching. So what you suggest should be fine. – Formagella Jul 14 '15 at 13:03
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    @FooBar technically, if they are touching your clothes, they aren't touching you. Touching a bag you carry? What if a bag you are currently carrying has been touched by a dog? What if another person you touch has touched a god? What if you walk where a dog has walked? Is the floor really different from a bag? – o0'. Jul 14 '15 at 18:03
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    @Lohoris please don't bring your feud with the OP onto my answer and start to argue with other commenters. None of us can settle the religious aspects of this question by hashing it out amongst ourselves. I've suggested the OP consult an imam for that and truly, none of us can do better than that. If religion was logical and people would change their ways because someone came at them with a barrage of questions that exposed a logic flaw, this would be a very different world. But it isn't. – Kate Gregory Jul 14 '15 at 18:06
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    I can't believe someone is trying to bring up a technically argument into a religious point. Since when is religion following logic? – FooBar Jul 15 '15 at 7:23
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Getting sniffed by a dog is not prohibited in Islam. See this if you want the relevant discussion. In fact, dogs can be kept as pets as long as they are for defence, herding etc. and not as recreational animals.

You may also want to post this separately in islam.stackexchange.com.

Even if you ignore the above - dogs at airports don't sniff people, they sniff luggage and items. This is true for most law enforcement animals (police, immigration, etc.)

Therefore if you are carrying goods on your person, you can place the items on the floor for the inspection; and as mentioned - you can remove items from your pockets and place them in a separate bag.

In my experience travelling across Europe/US/Asia officers at international border control points are trained to be sensitive to various cultural/religious norms. After all, I am sure your family would not be the first Muslim family to come across them during work.

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I know that different Muslims interpret the rules around dogs slightly differently, and I am not a scholar of Islam, but there is one piece of pragmatic advice I can contribute here.

I understand that many Muslims believe that if a dog touches your clothes, it is forbidden to pray in those clothes until they have been washed three times. This can be very inconvenient when travelling, especially if you start to run short of clothes.

So I recommend having

  • separate clothes for travelling, or for wearing in places where you might encounter a dog;
  • separate clothes for praying.

Use plastic bags to keep them separated inside your luggage, so that the najis is not transferred from one set of clothes to the other. Make sure you have one set of "praying clothes" in your carry-on luggage, in case your checked luggage goes missing, or in case you can't get to it when it's time for salah.

You may find this is a problem in places other than airports. Many Europeans take dogs out in public and don't make an effort to keep them away from other people. I've lost count of how many times I've been approached by a dog; and when I back away from it, its owner has told me something like "don't be scared, he won't bite you, he'll probably just lick you to death." So when you go out in public, wear the "travelling" clothes, not the "praying" clothes.

Also, Kate Gregory's advice about talking to your local sheikh or scholar is excellent advice. A properly qualified sheikh will always give you better advice than a bunch of well-meaning strangers on the Internet.

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    Good answer, but to be fair, the advice from a bunch of well-meaning strangers on the internet about the dogs in the airport, how they act, and how to avoid them is likely to be better than the advice on that topic from your faith leader. It's just that advice about your faith and practices is likely to be better from the faith leader. Yes? – Kate Gregory Jul 16 '15 at 10:36
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This is a guess rather than something I know, but it may be worth checking if it's possible to request to be searched by means other than a sniffer dog. They may be willing to have a human (or maybe even trained bees) search you instead.

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    Trained bees? O.O I will take the dog any day. – Burhan Khalid Nov 25 '15 at 13:49

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