Pune (PA): Sniffer dogs, who play a crucial role in helping the Railway Protection Force (RPF) secure trains and station premises, seem to be neglected and uncared for. Three sniffer dogs have died during service — two of cardiac arrest and one of kidney failure — in the last five years.
Information obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act, 2005, shows that not a single dog was retired by the Railway Protection Force in the last five years, though the RPF guidelines (standing order 84) stipulate that a dog should be retired if it is found medically unfit after reaching a certain age. Pune division officials, however, said no criteria had been specified for the retirement of dogs.
Other senior officials said the dogs were not retired as it would have created a shortage and it usually took the administration years to ensure replacements.
The sanctioned strength of the squad in Pune is of four dogs — one tracker and three sniffer. Two more dogs are at Miraj station. After sniffer Labrador Don’s death of cardiac arrest in October this year, the Pune squad was left with one sniffer (Dusky, 7 and a half years) and one tracker (Bali, 1 year and eight months). Three weeks ago, a sniffer puppy (Raj, 3 months) joined the squad as replacement for Changez, who died on September 28, 2012, of kidney failure at the age of 9 years.
It is learnt that a seriously ill Changez had worked for at least a year while he underwent treatment. A dog expert said sniffer dogs often developed serious respiratory disorders due to frequent exposure to explosives, adding that in the absence of proper care or in case of overwork, this might prove fatal for these dogs.
A 2008 report by a committee appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on augmentation of police dogs at railway stations had recommended one dog for every eight trains. By these standards, Pune should have at least 18 sniffer dogs.
“The dogs are also not given proper medical care and rest. We have reason to believe that overwork and neglect was responsible for the death of a dog recently,” said Harsha Shah of Railway Pravasi Group.
The officials have said in their reply to the RTI application that the squad does not have a vehicle to transport the dogs from their house in Shivajinagar to the Pune station for routine checks. The dogs have to be taken in an autorickshaw most of the times, causing inconvenience.
According to Shah, there should a be a dedicated vehicle for the transfer of sniffer dogs.
“Apart form causing great inconvenience to the dogs when they travel in auto-rickshaws, the absence of a dedicated vehicle also raises serious questions about the efficiency of the dog squad. In the heavy traffic of the city, if you don’t have a dedicated vehicle, finding an autorickshaw and transporting the dogs at the required spot should be really difficult,” she said.