Cops battle dogs shortage

Police officers in a recent simulation of a perlemoen poaching bust
involving the K9 unit, air-wing and marine rangers. Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

The police will import dogs in a bid to bring new breeding bloodlines to its K9 units which are facing a massive shortage of quality animals. The shortage has left K9 units across South Africa in a crisis which also affects training for members – including new recruits.

Several police sources revealed that the number of trained police dogs has reached critical levels, with about 325 trained dog handlers without animals. It affects all disciplines but mainly patrol dogs which are used for tracking down and catching suspects as well as explosive and narcotic detection.

While no reason has been given, the police’s training branch issued an order this month to all K9 units halting training, which is only expected to start again next year.

Port Elizabeth, Port Alfred, Humansdorp, Queenstown, Middelburg, Aliwal North, Uitenhage, King William’s Town, East London, Mthatha, Grahamstown, Elliot and Cradock are all affected by the dog shortage, according to Eastern Cape Police Emergency Service (PES) commander Colonel Vimla Moodley.

The shortage has even resulted in some police officers buying their own dogs for asmuch as R8 000. The new import and breeding intervention is part of an aggressive plan to boost the specialised K9 units countrywide, according to the police’s national head office in Pretoria.

The animal shortage has led to a backlog of training with new handler recruits waiting up to eight months to get a new dog before being sent on the four months’ mandatory handler training.

For years, officers in the K9 units have been asking that training of dogs be done at a provincial level and are then only overseen by the national training division. But this plea has fallen on deaf ears.

“We don’t understand why. There would be no training backlog if the training was done locally and inspections and tests done by national head office. This will speed up the process,” one official said.

“However, to do this we will need dogs – which is another serious issue. The lack of dogs coupled with training problems is crippling K9 units and ultimately affecting crime fighting.”

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