The Canine Center of Punjab Police Special Branch, the only facility harboring sniffer dogs for explosives detection being run by civilian administration, is in a shambles due to a severe shortage of staff.
“The center is being run by only 29% of the total designated number of employees,” shared an officer. Only 74 of the total 255 posts are filled, while 181 have been vacant for years.
The situation has been worsening with the passage of time. In 2016, 35% of the total designated strength was employed in the center. 91 employees were serving 163 posts were vacant.
However, since then the center has expanded its role along with an increasing number of dogs.
The center was established in 2010 after the need for surveillance and security clearance for VIP movement, routes and venues multiplied in the wake of terrorist attacks.
Earlier, the Special Branch was engaged for security clearance for few VVIPs’ movement and functions.
However, in the past two decades, most of the travel by important figures required security clearance by the Special Branch.
At the time of setting up of the facility, the department purchased trained dogs from Pakistan Army Canine Centers.
Two years back, breeding of sniffer dogs was also started.
The officer said keeping, training and employing the dogs for the work was an intricate job. “It needs expertise and dedicated attention,” he said.
He said the trainers and handlers of the dogs also needed to be properly trained. They should also develop an understanding about using the dogs in the field, he added.
“The gap between expanding scope of the training center, number of sniffer dogs and workload of the staff amid the shortage and heightened security needs may prove disastrous,” the official added, warning that the operation of the facility might collapse.
“Since the inception of the center, not a single explosion has been reported at a point cleared by its canines. The trained dogs did not make a mistake. But a handler may make a mistake”, he said.
Due to the increased workload, a frustrated and tired handler is more prone to committing a mistake, he added.
The official said that for catering to total 52 sniffer dogs, including 22 in Lahore, he posts of 165 of the total 220 senior and junior handlers were vacant. Similarly, 22 seats of 31 designated grade 9-14 supervisors are vacant. One of two chief supervisors and a grade 18 principal have also not been appointed.
In 2016, two posts of assistant supervisor, four of canine supervisor, 19 of senior canine handler, 134 of canine handler and seven of sweepers fell vacant.