Credit for security at Mumbai’s international and domestic airports does not rest with personnel on duty alone. A dog squad of 12 works tirelessly, sniffing baggage for explosives and ensuring passenger safety.
A member of the CISF airport squad takes to the treadmill to stay fit. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
Last July, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) invested in a treadmill to ensure their four-legged officers on duty stayed fit even during the rains when their morning walks were hampered. Their day usually begins at 5 am with a jog on the treadmill followed by physical training and a grooming session.
Pups on board
The dog squad which has four females, includes Labradors, German shepherds and Cocker Spaniels, who were brought in as seven-month-old pups. They were taken to the training camp accompanied by individual handlers, who raise the pups, train them and accompany them on duty once they turn one-and-a-half-year old.
During the six-month-long training, the first three months are spent on discipline training followed by a sensitisation programme based on the introduction to odour. Through the reward method, they are familiarised with explosives like RDX, Trinitrotoluene (more commonly known as TNT) and plastic explosives.
A CISF official said, “Some new-age bombs explode as soon as a sniffer dog barks. So, we have had to tweak our training style. Instead of barking, the dogs are now trained to make a sign.
They have also been trained to detect liquid explosives that contain ammonia and nitrogen.” Three more pups are undergoing training at the Border Security Force camp at Tekanpur, Gwalior.
Diet and check-up
While the canine diet includes milk, dog food, meat, egg and chapati, they also undergo monthly check-ups at Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) in Parel. Every dog's weight has to be maintained according to breed and age. No dog is fed more than 250 gram of meat, every alternate day.
A CISF Officials explained, “Male dogs tend to suffer mood swings and disobey. Hence every shift has a minimum of two dogs on duty.” Currently, six dogs are rostered per shift and are usually at the terminal during peak passenger traffic.
On Mumbai Customs duty
Mumbai Customs has eight dogs that work according to officer shifts one day shift and another night shift, followed by two days off. They stay with their handlers at the Matunga Central quarters. A special vehicle ferries them to the airport and back. The Mumbai airport is one among three in the country that uses dogs for detection of drugs.
The latest entrants to the Mumbai Customs group are Holly, Minty and Urnie, who joined them last December. A Customs official said, “Though we haven't had cases of meow- meow, we have approached the authorities at Takenpur to include newly introduced drugs in their training sessions.”