Workload takes a toll on RPF sniffer dogs

Pune:  Overwork due to shortage of sniffer dogs with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) seems to have taken a toll on health of the dogs. Two of them have died in the last few months. On October 12, five-year-old sniffer Labrador, Don, died after cardiac arrest. In May, a labrador had died of the same reason while it was on work.

Animal activists says the dogs at the Pune RPF unit are overworked. “There were only four dogs with the RPF, of which three were sniffer dogs and one tracker. One sniffer dog died five months ago. The sniffer dogs are overworked as they have to check each and every bogey of trains from the station. On Saturday, Don died at a young age,” said Harsha Shah, animal rights enthusiast and railway activist.

Shah said dogs suffer from cardiac arrest due to overwork. “while an RPF policeman works for eight hours, the dogs are made to work for more than 14-15 hours. We have been demanding that RPF should recruit more dogs,” Shah said.

Official sources said autopsy of both the dogs show that it had died of cardiac arrest. A 2008 report by a panel appointed by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on augmentation of police dogs at railway station recommended one dog for every eight trains. Pune station should at least have 18 sniffer dogs by that count.

The dogs are also not given proper medical care and rest. Shah alleged that apart from the work at the railways, the sniffer dogs are also sent to assist state police in cases of emergency. “Mumbai recently recruited 18 labradors to make up for the shortage of sniffer dogs. This move has brought great relief to the dogs there who work only for 8 hours a day,” said Shah.

The kennel for these dogs is at Shivajinagar. Every morning the are brought to Pune station in an overcrowded autorickshaw. “There is no place for them to rest at the station. It’s high time that railway recruits more labradors before Dusky, the only sniffer dog, also meets the same fate,” said Shah

Y K Singh, Railway PRO said the Pune division administration is planning to recruit two more labradors for the Pune station. “We are left with one sniffer and one tracker dog. We will soon recruit two more labradors. Besides, we have two sniffer dogs at Miraj station, which can be brought to Pune if the recruitment is delayed.”