Dogs in olive brave Valley terror

Officers engaged in J&K's anti-terror drive say terrorists are scared of dog squads, reports Man Aman Singh.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2006 01:39 IST

When Sergeant Harry and his fellow officers from the US's famed dog squad hogged headlines during George Bush's visit to India, our dogs in olive sulked: "We do daring stuff like track down landmines and explosives. We don't just go around sniffing at Rajghat. And yet, no one talks of us."

That sounds like a brooding breed, but they are right. The Army's dog squad has a success rate of 99.9 per cent in sniffing out explosives and tracking down militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, the Army top brass in the Valley wants at least 1,000 dogs to be deployed with units fighting insurgency. The Army is also training them to be paratroopers - they are expected to jump out of airplanes along with their handlers so that they can be parachuted during special operations.

Officers serving in counter-terrorism operations in J&K say the terrorists are terrified of the dog squads. They have intercepted messages between terrorist groups that go: "There is a new dog in the sector. He is very dangerous, get rid of him as soon as possible".

Speaking to HT, a senior officer of the Remount Veterinary Corps said that whenever the dogs have gone out with road opening parties (ROPs), they have been able to sniff out explosives. "Whenever the para-military or the police leave the dogs behind, the chances of a blast are higher," he said.

The Army has nearly 35 dog units and most of them are used for counter-insurgency tasks in J&K as well as the north-east. The luckier ones are posted on VIP duty and sanitise the area where a VIP is scheduled to visit.

The Army uses Labradors and Alsatians in their dog units who serve for nearly 12 years after which they 'retire'. These dogs and their handlers have won countless commendations and medals for their bravery.

However, working for nearly eight hours a day can take a toll on their health. "These dogs sniff continuously and their heart rate goes up considerably," said the officer.

First Published: Apr 21, 2006 01:39 IST