Law enforcement agencies around the world use animals (mostly dogs and horses) to help them perform security work. Dogsare, by far, the most common animals used.
Many dogs are used by U.S. law enforcement agencies at the local and national levels to perform important tasks. These agencies include police and sheriff departments, arson investigators, the Federal Bureau of
A Belgian horse carriage offers recreational rides to city dwellers and tourists. Photograph by Cory Langley. Reproduced by permission.
Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Department of Customs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Corrections, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The dogs are specially trained to work with officers during searches and arrests and to sniff out illegal substances. Dogs have incredibly sensitive noses. Their sense of smell is several thousand times better than that of humans. Dogs can smell tiny quantities of substances and can distinguish particular scents with amazing accuracy. This natural ability has proven to be an extremely useful tool in law enforcement applications.
Many of the dogs used in law enforcement are rescued from dog pounds and animal shelters or donated by owners. The dogs undergo extensive training along with their potential handlers. German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers are some of the most popular breeds used. Beagles are preferred for many sniffing jobs because they have an especially keen sense of smell.
The use of dogs by local police dates back to nineteenth-century Europe. British policemen on patrol often took their pet dogs with them as they walked the streets. Many police stations had mascot dogs just for this purpose. The successful use of dogs by military units during World War I (1914–18) brought added attention to the use of dogs in police work. During the 1930s British police set up official programs for the training and use of police dogs.
In 1907 the New York City police department (NYPD) incorporated police dogs into its work. However, the value of dogs for this work was not immediately recognized in the United States. They were used by only a dozen police forces through the early 1950s. Police dogs were sometimes used for intimidation purposes during the civil rights protests of the 1960s. (See Figure 8.5.)
The United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) was founded in 1971. The organization works to establish minimum standards for the training of police dogs in searching buildings and other areas for suspects and evidence, tracking criminals and lost people, pursuing and apprehending fleeing criminals, and protecting their human handlers.
Police dog work is very dangerous for the dogs. Many have died on duty. In 2005 the USPCA began a campaign to establish a national law enforcement animal
A policeman and police dog confront a man at a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.
memorial to honor police dogs and other animals that have died in the line of duty. On its Web site the organization asked law enforcement officials to register the names of such animals. The USPCA planned to verify the names and seek funding for a memorial. In 2000 a charity called Pennies to Protect Police Dogs, Inc., was started by a twelve-year-old Florida girl. As of February 2005, the organization had raised more than $225,000 to provide 395 custom-fit bulletproof and stab-resistant vests to police dogs employed at 145 agencies in twenty-seven states. Each vest costs around $600.
Many fire departments use dogs as part of their arson investigation teams. Arson dogs are specially trained to sniff for the presence of accelerants, such as gasoline, at sites where arson is suspected. Because of their incredible sense of smell, arson dogs can detect tiny amounts of accelerants lingering on surfaces inside buildings and vehicles or on people's clothes. The dogs indicate a find either by sitting or attempting to gain eye contact with their handlers. Because arsonists often hang around the scene of the crime, arson dogs are discreetly led through crowds gathered to watch fires to sniff for the presence of accelerants on people's clothing or belongings. Any suspicious finds are subjected to detailed laboratory testing.
An officer and narcotics-sniffing dog inspect lockers at a New York high school. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.
Federal agencies that guard U.S. borders have used dogs since the 1970s. In 1970 the U.S. Customs Service began using dogs to sniff out narcotics being smuggled into the country at major border crossings. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) also used dogs to help intercept illegal aliens and prevent smuggling. The USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) employed dogs at international airports and border crossings to sniff people's luggage for banned plant and animal products. People sometimes try to sneak in items that could pose a disease threat to America's crops and animals. By 2001 dozens of dogs were part of the USDA's Beagle Brigade.
In 2003 these agencies were grouped together into the Department of Homeland Security. The canine resources of the individual agencies were combined into a new agency called U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP reported in 2005 that it had more than 1,250 canine teams in operation. Many are stationed at airports, seaports, and border crossings around the country. In 1998 the federal government began a breeding program to develop Labrador retrievers specifically for detection work. Puppies are kept in a breeding facility until they are twelve weeks old and then raised by foster families until they are about a year old. In 2003 the program was expanded to allow selected prisons around
Mounted police handle labor unrest in Philadelphia, 1946. The Library of Congress.
the country to become foster facilities under the Puppies Behind Bars program.
Federal officials report that CBP dogs have discovered millions of pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs hidden in vehicles and cargo entering the United States. During 2001 they led customs agents to more than one million pounds of marijuana and 26,000 pounds of cocaine, resulting in the arrest of nearly 8,000 people. More than $20 million in cash was also confiscated. In 2003 a CBP dog named Crazy Joe was credited with uncovering more than $10 million in illegal drugs at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Drug-sniffing dogs are also sometimes used in schools. (See Figure 8.6.)
Horses have been used in law enforcement work for centuries. They were the fastest and surest form of transportation for officers for many years. Even after cars became common, many law enforcement agencies continued to use mounted patrols. (See Figure 8.7 for a photo of mounted police in action in the 1940s.) According to the Web site MountedPolice.com, there are hundreds of jurisdictions around the United States that use horse-mounted officers.
Mounted units are popular in both rural and metropolitan areas. According to information on the Web site of the United Mounted Peace Officers of Texas in 2005, Texas authorities use about 100 horses for patrols around the state. They are particularly useful in backcountry areas on dirt roads and rugged terrain. Several large U.S. police departments use mounted patrols for crowd control and to provide greater visibility of officers on the streets.
In 1871 the New York police department established a mounted unit to help officers control reckless carriage drivers and riders. It was responsible for 429 arrests during its first year alone. By the turn of the century, the program used nearly 400 horses and was responsible for crowd control during strikes, rallies, parades, and
other public demonstrations. As of February 2005, the NYPD was using approximately 100 horses. All of them were geldings (castrated males) between the ages of six and twenty years that were housed at six stables located throughout the city. The horses are donated by owners or purchased specifically for use in the program.
Mounted units are not without controversy. There have been injuries to horses, police, and members of the public. Because mounted units often perform crowd control during protests and demonstrations, the horses and the riders are exposed to people who may be angry and confrontational. There are reports of police horses being pelted with marbles and even garbage. Protesters claim that police often charge their horses into crowds, knocking over and injuring people.
Walking for many hours on city streets under stressful conditions is not easy on the horses. A few instances are reported each year of police horses throwing off or kicking their riders.