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M'sia's prison department to upgrade K9 unit
Publication Date : 18-09-2013
They may be the youngest team of working dogs in the civil service but the Prison Department’s K9 unit does not plan to remain the underdog.
“While we are not as high profile as the police, Customs, and Fire and Rescue departments, our job is just as important,” said unit head Assistant Superintendent Abdul Hamid Mohammad.
According to Abdul Hamid, he has high hopes for the unit, and there are plans to expand it nationwide.
“We eventually hope to train and breed our own dogs,” he said, adding that a 5 million ringgit (US$1.5 million) allocation had been given to upgrade the unit in the next two years.
The money will also be used to set up another unit in Penang and for purchasing more dogs and vehicles.
Although currently serving prisons in the central zone, the unit has also served as far away as Sabah to guard prisons during Ops (operation) Daulat against Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu.
With the slogan “Prevent, Detect, Guard”, the unit currently consists of 27 prison officers and 18 dogs.
Each dog is paired with one handler, and both are trained for specific duties, such as detection or guard duty.
Sniffer dogs are trained to detect prohibited articles in prison such as mobile phones, tobacco, drugs and money, while guard dogs are trained to track escapees and for crowd control.
Abdul Hamid said that all K9 unit personnel were directly involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the kennel and its occupants.
“We feed and groom the dogs, wash their kennels daily and monitor their health,” he said.
A day at the prison kennel begins at 7am with the most basic routine – going to the toilet. After the dogs are done relieving themselves, they get some play time before starting their drills and work-related exercises.
The dogs take a break at noon and rest until it is time for grooming and a bath.
D. Vikneswaran, 27, and his partner Mia, a three-year-old Belgian Shepherd, have been working together since the unit started operating in 2010.
As Mia is a sniffer dog, her daily exercises include sniffing for prohibited articles hidden in plastic storage containers similar to those used by inmates.
“Some days we will do search exercises in the land surrounding the kennel,” added Vikneswaran, who was a prison guard for four years before he was selected to join the K9 unit.
Chief Inspector Goh Joon Senn, who is in the unit’s administrative office, said working in a prison environment with the dogs presented its own set of challenges.
“Inmates may provoke the dogs during inspections to disrupt their duties. But we have standard operating procedures to deal with such incidents,” he said.
He added that the dogs were also stationed at entrances to detect contraband hidden in vehicles.