rules of the game

Customs hires canine staff

19.03.2012 | By Olha Moskalenko Komentari:

Lack of funds stands in the way of plans to beef up the ranks of the nations customs with another 200 trained service dogs for EURO 2012

Recently, Chief of the State Customs Service of Ukraine Ihor Kaletnyk said that by June 2012 the number of members of the service dogs will be increased from the current 300 to 500. A dog is mans best friend, you can never pay it off or cut a deal with it no matter how much sausage you feed it, the countrys chief customs officer observed. Interesting, in 2010 the canine team was only 70 strong, so the number of dogs working at the countrys borders was increased by 130 over two years. Today the customs authority plans to make a quantum leap forward by executing the 2-year plan in all of four months

Petro Ihnatenko, Chief Inspector of the Anti-drug and Anti-arms Smuggling Branch of the Anti-Contraband, Risk Analysis and Corruption Department of the Customs Service, told KW about the conditions in which Ukraines four-legged customs officers live.

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Which breeds protect the border?

German shepherds, Labradors and spaniels are bought at breeding kennels and mainly used in the search for smuggled drugs and weapons. The age of recruits ranges from 8-18 months. Interesting is that the breed in no way influences a dogs specialization. The playfulness and the predisposition to search for a specific smell are much more important factors here. The main thing is that the dog has a favorite toy. The dream of playing with its toy inspires customs dogs to search for one smell: tobacco, drugs or weapons.

A customs dog works with one assigned officer, who becomes the dogs best friend, master, trainer and partner. A service dog can belong to a canine inspector or the customs authority. As the Anti-Contraband Department pointed out, preference is usually given to inspectors that have their own dog, which makes things much simpler. All dogs regardless of how purebred they may be, should go through a special examination first. Their human partners must have a special education and know the basics of veterinarian and canine work.

There are cases, albeit quite rare, of two dogs living with one inspector. By the way, the state significantly economizes here as there are practically no enclosures for dogs to live in on the territories of customs offices in Ukraine, so the majority of customs dogs live with their masters.

These dogs work on average in 8-hour shifts. They spend their leisure time in an active regime just like professional athletes. The average working career of a customs dog is 8-10 years. We do not know what happens to these dogs after they are sent to grass. If a dog came to the service together with its master and worked his tenure, after the contract is terminated the dog lives out its life in its masters home. What happens with the state-owned dogs remains a mystery.

Why do they need more dog-power?

Customs officer deny that the number service dogs will be enhanced especially for EURO 2012. Dogs show excellent results when it comes to exposing smuggled items, so the customs definitely needs more. Well, these dogs will surely help us considerably during the influx of foreign citizens for the football championship, but we have planned the acquisition of new dogs long ago, Ihnatenko says. He believes that 500 dogs is an optimal figure for supporting the work of the entire customs infrastructure in Ukraine.

The customs plan to increase the number of canine inspectors through reshuffles among full-time customs employees. Given Presumably, rank-and-file customs officers will go through crash courses to learn how to communicate with the animals. The basic training of a dog master to search for naturally grown drugs takes around four weeks.

How much will it cost?

According to the State Customs Service, the price of a German shepherd ranges between UAH 2,500-4,000, Labrador UAH 2,000-4,000 and Spaniels UAH 1,500-2,500. At this point it is not known what breed of dog the state plans to purchase. So based on the average figure of UAH 3,000 per dog, 200 dogs will cost the national budget UAH 600,000. But the purchase of a dog is only the tip of the iceberg. Every dog must be trained, groomed and fed. The SCS says that on average 120-140 hours of intensive training are required to train these dogs to work at customs checkpoints. The Cynological Subdivision of the Center for Skill Enhancement, Pre-training of Employees and Cynology is responsible for such training. Cynologists say an hour of training dogs not designated to work for the customs service costs UAH 200-400 depending on the training terms and the dogs natural skills. The customs service allocates UAH 6,500 a year for grooming one large dog and UAH 4,000 a year for a smaller one.

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