No dope sneaks past this sniffer squad

Published: 30 November, 2011 08:28 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh |

The four drug detection dogs at Mumbai international airport have made seizures worth Rs 100 crore, earning accolades from the narcotics department for busting drug consignments

The four drug detection dogs at Mumbai international airport have made seizures worth Rs 100 crore, earning accolades from the narcotics department for busting drug consignments

Heroin or hash, coke or cannabis, this squad of four quadrupeds will sniff out the hidden stash from the most unlikely cavities. The Mumbai Airport Customs owes 98 per cent of their narcotics seizures to them. In fact, in the past six years, the canines have made drug hauls worth almost a hundred crore, becoming the go-to guys for Customs officials wherever dope is involved.

Hard day's rest: Goldy, all of six years, is the odd man out in an
otherwise all-female squad of Labradors. In 2008, he helped seize 4 kg
of heroin which was worth around Rs 4 crore

Meet Sony, Dolly, Anju and Goldy, the 'hawk-eyed' watchdogs with the hypersensitive hooters that have helped officials arrest drug smuggling at the airport.

Dogged hauls
Sony (8), the eldest member of the designated squad sniffed her maiden haul on May 26, 2005, by seizing about 7.5 kg hashish worth Rs 38.5 lakh. However, her first biggest haul was on January 26, 2006 when she intercepted 21 kg of hash worth more than Rs 1.9 crore.

Dolly (6), who started her very first day on the job by seizing 1.3 kg of heroine costing Rs 1.3 crore in July, 2008.

In October the same year, she intercepted 1.9 kg heroin worth Rs 1.9 crore. Six days later, she intercepted 3.5 kg heroine worth Rs 3.5 crore. Her other biggest hauls were 1.2 kg heroine worth Rs 1.2 crore on November 11, 2008, 2.7 kg of heroin worth Rs 2.7 crore on March 23, 2009 and 6.55 kg of the same worth Rs 6.95 crore in August, 2010.

Dog diet
8 chapatis, 2 eggs, 1 litre milk, 500 g red meat and 250 g green vegetables
is the daily diet of each of these dogs
Duty hours
Like any other Customs employee, the four Lab dogs have to work in shifts, each of eight hours. A day shift is alternated with a night shift, followed by a two-day break.

On February 26,  2010, she seized 5.4 kg of cocaine and 100 g of heroin worth Rs 6.37 crore.

Anju (6), the indisputable champion among all four intercepted four different cases of morphine, marijuana and heroine worth Rs 25.5 crore this year alone.

She sniffed her first stash in 2007 -- 2.5 kg of heroine worth Rs 2.5 crore. In October the same year, she intercepted 2 kg heroin worth Rs 2 crore, and three days before that new year's eve, she intercepted 2.9 kg morphine worth Rs 2.9 crore. On July 22, 2008 she intercepted 1 kg heroin worth Rs 1 crore followed by 3.34 kg heroin worth Rs 3.34 crore on February 16, 2009 and two other cases of 1.16 and 1.59 kg of heroin worth 2.8 crore in the same year.

Goldy, the same age as Anju and Dolly, and the only odd man out in an otherwise female club, laid his paws on his first haul of 2.4 kg heroin costing Rs 2.4 crore on September 30, 2008.

Later in October the same year, he intercepted 1.5 kg heroin worth Rs 1.5 crore.

Other than these, the foursome has together intercepted more than two dozen cases of heroin, morphine, and hash worth Rs 30-90 lakh.

It's a dog's life
The handlers of the Mumbai airport narcotics dog squad have their detailed background right from food habits to sniff power to pedigree that makes these dogs the best for any type of detection.

"The dog squad attached to the Air Intelligence Unit of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport was opened with a single dog called Hero in 1986. In 1988, there was Anand and Puja, followed by Rana, Rakhi, Mangla, Madan and Pinky in the years up to 2004. Sony and later Goldy, Anju and Dolly joined the league," said a dog handler of the rank of assistant sub-inspector serving the Customs narcotics for two decades.

While Rana and Mangla expired at an early age of less than two years, Madan was the latest to leave this family. He died in 2009. Rakhi went strolling one day in the '90s and never returned.

"All the dogs are Labradors, because their smelling power is considered the best for detection of narcotics and explosives," he said, adding, "The dogs are trained at the Border Security Force Academy, Takenpur, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, which is the only dog training school in India."

Customs has also appointed a doctor for their care, while four assistant sub-inspectors (dog handlers) nurse these dogs and press them into service for optimum use.

Talking about the future of the dog squad, P M Saleem, commissioner, Mumbai airport customs, said, "The department has proposed to increase the size of the dog squad, taking into consideration not only their anti-smuggling but also anti-terror propensities. The officers would be given intensified training as well."

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