Delhi Police struggles to maintain numbers with its dog squad
The special squad has been understaffed and overworked for past few years; the four-legged cops work an average 8-10 hours every day.delhi Updated: Mar 11, 2018 23:06 IST
With just 65 trained sniffer and explosive detection canines available, the Delhi Police’s dog squad has been understaffed and overworked the past few years. From visiting crime scenes and tracking footsteps of suspects, sniffing out narcotics and explosives, guarding high-profile events, and participating in mock-drills and other police preparedness operations, the four-legged cops work an average 8-10 hours every day.
The burden on the existing lot is further expected to increase as at least 10 dogs are set to retire by the end of this year. Meanwhile another five will be relieved next year, bringing down the strength of the squad to 50 or less. The situation would worsen if some dogs die before their retirement age, a problem which the city police’s canine team has been facing the past few years.
According to a police report, a total of 106 dogs from the squad have either retired or died during service since 2010 Commonwealth Games when the strength of the police dogs unit was 110.
In order to make up for the dwindling numbers, Delhi Police purchased 61 trained dogs between February 2013 and March 2017 from the Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC), Indian Army’s administrative and operational branch that is responsible for breeding, rearing, and training of all animals used in the army. The RVC also supplies such training animals to states police and paramilitary forces.
A report accessed by Hindustan Times shows not a single dog has been purchased in the past year. The RVC has also turned down the Delhi Police’s latest request to provide 100 trained dogs (26 trackers and 74 explosive detectors), which means that no new dogs will be inducted in the squad till the end of this year.
“…due to own commitments, trained dogs being sought by your HQ (Delhi Police headquarters) are ‘not available’ for sale at present. The same can only be considered after December 2018…,” replied the director general, RVC, in a letter to the city police.
In 2016, the then city police chief prohibited the force to purchase dogs from open market or private breeding centres and directed that trained dogs for the squad can only be acquired from the RVC or Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The directions were issued keeping in view the past bitter experiences the department faced when dogs were purchased from the open market.
“…dogs to be purchased from RVC and CISF only. During the recent induction, it was observed that some of the dogs purchased from the market did not appear to be purchased. Dogs bought from private persons have not been the best of the breed…,” the then police chief had said in his order.
As of today, the dog squad, which comes under the Delhi Police crime branch, has a total of 65 canines — four cocker spaniels and 61 Labrador retrievers. However, none of these are German shepherds or dobermans, which are widely considered the best trackers, sniffers and explosive detection dogs. Of these 65 dogs, 16 are tracker dogs while the remaining 49 have expertise in detecting explosives.
Earlier, the canine squad used to have only dobermans and German shepherds. But lack of availability of dogs of the two breeds, their high mortality rate and ferocious nature, has forced the city police to replace them by Labrador retrievers and cocker spaniels, says deputy commissioner of police (crime), Rajan Bhagat, who heads the canine squad.
“We prefer to purchase and train Labradors and cocker spaniels because their natural ability to adapt to any schedule and Delhi’s atmospheric conditions. The trainers find them easy to train and handle. Besides, the two dog breeds are easily available in official breeding and training centres and also suit the work required by the city police,” said Bhagat.
During the Commonwealth Games, there were 15 German Shepherds in the squad. While 10 of these retired over the years, five died during their service period. “But not a single dog of this breed has been added in the squad since 2010,” says a police officer associated with the squad.
The last German shepherd, Ruby, died last year, a few months before her retirement. She was helpful in cracking two murder cases in 2015, including that of the murders of two children in south Delhi’s Sangam Vihar. A tracker, Ruby had led the investigators to the spot in a jungle where the alleged killers had consumed liquor and smoked bidis after committing the crime. The spot was around 200 meters away from the crime scene.
A few months ago, the home ministry had asked the Delhi Police for “action plan” for greater use of dog squad at airport and public places, keeping in view the inputs regarding possible terror strikes in the city. The increasing and continuous work pressure has forced the city police to push for increasing the strength of the squad to 100.