New Delhi: They have been at it since Aug 8, a week before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the nation from the Red Fort. Sniffing around garbage and tracking scents through crowded areas, the canine squad of the Delhi Police is pivotal to ensuring that the VIP venue is safeguarded this Aug 15.
The 20 canines, who have been on duty since Monday, gasp for breath as they run around trash bins, parking lots and crowded areas in and around the Red Fort, the centrepiece of Independence Day celebrations. They are among 75 dogs of the Delhi Police who will move through the length and breadth of the city to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
"With the increased VIP movement and Delhi being the national capital, the role of police dogs is pivotal here, be it as tracker or a sniffer," Rajan Bhagat, chief of Delhi Police`s dog squad said.
The Delhi Police`s squad comprises 52 labradors, seven German shepherds, seven doberman pinschers and nine cocker spaniels.
Some of the dogs are specially trained in identifying explosives and narcotics, Bhagat said. Among them, the new entrants are cocker spaniels, a breed that can easily go under vehicles and tunnels for search operations because of its small size.
"Our dogs are trained by the Border Security Force (BSF) and we also get trained dogs from the Army," the official said.
Labradors enjoy a prime position in the squad because of their skills in tracking and identifying objects.
"They require less pampering, care and are good learners. They can avert major casualties as they give early signals to their masters," said Vishal Singh, a dog handler with the squad.
The sniffer dog has a hectic schedule as it attends at least three calls a day.
"During Independence Day and Republic Day, it is more. These calls do not include the VIP routes," said another dog handler, requesting anonymity.
The canines of the squad start their day around 7 am and are allowed to roam around freely for half-an-hour. Then they are taken out for exercise.
"Around 9 am, they are back. We wash and groom them before checking for any wounds," Singh said.
A dog is given 150 gram of wheat, 100 gram of rice, dal and soyabean besides meat and other foods every day.
Though they are well looked after, pollution severely affects their skills.
"The dogs, particularly trackers in the squad, through the years become less helpful as their health deteriorates quickly owing to pollution," a police officer said.
Usually, a dog is kept in service for eight years in consultation with veterinary doctors and is given to NGOs when it gets aged, wounded or is not able to work.
"We have been getting dogs from the Delhi Police for the past five years," said Geeta Seshamani, vice president of Friendicoes, a society working to eradicate cruelty against animals.
"When the dogs get old, they are given to NGOs like ours. Last year we got 17," she said.
Seshamani said four out of the 17 were suffering from kidney and liver ailments and their skin conditions were also poor.
"We cannot give them for adoption as we don`t want them to undergo stress. These canines cannot adapt to a new home as their schedules are in a particular way," she said.
"It will be very helpful if somebody gives some monetary assistance for these dogs in the later years of their lives," she added.