July 6, 2009 / 6:52 AM / 10 years ago

Wanted: volunteer detectives, only dogs need apply

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - Jame and Richy help bust drug smugglers and guard royal events in Thailand. These law enforcement volunteers are also great at sitting and fetching.

Fox, a German shepherd dog specialized in explosives detection, is presented to the media in the Constitution Square in front of Romania's Parliament Palace in Bucharest March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

The German shepherd and Labrador are graduates of a boot camp for canines run by the Royal Thai Police to help pet owners with basic obedience training, but to also create a network of doggy detectives to boost its own ranks.

“If the dogs can work, they can help society and its owners’ family. This is what we consider our success,” said police dog handler Lieutenant Colonel Chatchai Setthipanlan.

“When dogs pass the elementary level, we train them on discipline, then after they finish the advanced level, we specify a particular field that we use for crime suppression tasks.”

The force has only 33 professional police dogs, and this is the second year the volunteer programme has been conducted.

Last year, only 20 dogs out of 300 recruits passed the three-month training course and were appointed as volunteer police dogs which, in case of an emergency, will be called upon to work in the area they live in.

Training stars with basic commands, such as “sit” and “wait.” Many pets do not go beyond this stage, Chatchai said.

Chaiwat Ruangkittikul, the owner of the talented Richy and Jame, was one of a few whose dogs finished the programme last year. Richy took part in guarding the cremation ceremony for one of the royals while Jame is in the narcotics squad.

Chaiwat and his wife have also become volunteer police dog handlers.

“The program was initiated to make police dogs familiar with civilians’ dogs so they can be united. They (police) want to encourage people to help society,” said Chaiwat.

This year, more than 800 pet dogs have enrolled in the program which started about two weeks ago. The police have said that if this year’s course is successful, they would consider running a third one.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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