Over 50 canines deployed with the Delhi Police dog squad, trained to sniff out explosives, play a significant role in keeping terror at bay. But many more of them are needed, and Delhi Police have no breeding centres.
According to police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat, 59 dogs of four breeds presently help the force in security checks at railway stations, airports, markets, VIP visit venues and Metro parking lots.
The police dogs include 45 Labradors, seven Cocker Spaniels, five Doberman and two German Shepherds.
“Most of the dogs are bought from private breeders and undergo intensive training at a Border Security Force centre in Madhya Pradesh. Some trained dogs are also bought from Indian Army’s Remount Veterinary Corps based in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district,” says a police officer.
The main unit of the squad is located at north Delhi’s Model Town, where 15 dogs are deployed, while the rest are on district duty in Sabzi Mandi, Daryaganj, Pitampura, Chanakyapuri, Kalyanpuri, North-East Kalyanpuri, RK Puram, Janakpuri and Dwarka.
“The dogs are especially trained for identifying explosive substances and arms before being deployed,” Bhagat adds. They are also given training in sniffing out narcotics, besides searching for and rescuing people in cases of natural or other disasters.
Model Town dog squad unit in-charge sub-inspector Digvijay says the canines are usually inducted when they are eight months old. “A puppy costs between Rs 20,000 and Rs 35,000, while an older dog would cost Rs 2.5 lakh,” he says.
The dogs serve for over eight years and retire after crossing 10 years. Upon retirement, they are handed over to animal trusts. Police prefer Labradors over other breeds as Delhi’s climate suits this breed better.
“Doberman dogs were earlier used most for tracking criminals. But Labradors are preferred these days,” Bhagat says. This is because they pick a scent better to track explosives and narcotics.
Though Doberman dogs are highly skilled, they are difficult to train. On the other hand, maintenance of Labradors is easy and they live long, says Bhagat. “Our handlers prefer such canines most and they are easily trained.”
The Coker Spaniels were purchased ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. These one-foot-tall dogs are mostly deployed at airports and are useful for checking inside planes.
“They are useful as they are small and can be easily carried around cramped areas,” another officer says.
The recent arrest of a suspected Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist and the recovery of arms and ammunition only strengthens the case for more sniffer dogs.
“We have to ensure a foolproof security cover, and additional dogs will only help us in keeping any untoward incident at bay,” Bhagat says.