With an elite sense of smell 10,000 times greater than humans, dogs make the perfect detectives – and the K9 unit at Dubai Customs is helping catch criminals and thwart the illegal flow of narcotics and explosives into the UAE’s borders.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English, Dubai Customs has revealed that its team of canines – including Springers, Spaniels, German Shepherds, Malinois; a Belgian sheepherding dog - and Labradors – have played a key part in 84 major drugs seizures during the last five years.
The dogs, explained Adil al-Suwaidi, director of technical support department at Dubai Customs K9 unit, play an important role in drugs and explosives seizures at different ports in the emirate. He explained that their incredible sense of smell, workability and loyalty make them an invaluable asset to the security of Dubai’s borders.
Major seizures, which were made with the help of the sniffer dogs, included a seizure of 308,020 captagon pills at Deira Wharfage, which were hidden under the wooden floor of a dhow.
Another seizure took place in Jebel Ali where captagon pills, hashish and crystal meth were found hidden in a scrap shipment.
The sniffer dogs have also contributed to thwarting a major contraband including big quantities of captagon pills and marijuana hidden in a fruit truck coming into the country.
“These breeds of dogs are active, hard-working, stubborn, alert and protective,” explained al-Suwaidi. “They use their keen sense of smell – which is up to 100,000 times greater than that of a human – to locate the hidden narcotics or explosives.”
There are 20 trained dogs in place, who are supervised and taken care of by a team of experts.
Fifteen years of K9 border control
The K9 unit was established 15 years ago in 2007 under Dubai Custom’s Technical Support Department and the first batch of four search dogs – two Malinois and two Labradors - got to work with their handlers the same year.
Advanced training programs are important to ensure the efficiency of the K9 Unit’s operations, al-Suwaidi explained.
Detector dogs have extensive and regular training, along with their handlers. This relationship between dog and human is critical.
Training a detector dog can take anywhere between three to 10 months.
“Inspectors in charge of the sniffer dogs receive regular training on methods of detecting drugs and prohibited substances, and body language, and they work harmoniously with their dogs in thwarting different contrabands,” al-Suwaidi said.
Even by dog standards, the K9 Unit dogs have an impressive sense of smell thanks to generations of selective breeding.
Crucially, the dogs also no longer just work in freight or customs areas.
The canines provide help to air, sea, and land ports in the emirate, and they work on shifts to cover 24 hours a day.
“The Technical Support Department provides training and equipment to all customs centers,” al-Suwaidi said. “We equip the training centers with the most advanced inspection devices, and with the help of the sniffer dogs we are fully geared up to tackle all smuggling attempts.”
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