The Canine Police Unit has a deficit of more than 300 sniffer dogs, the commandant Dr. Martin Mugume has revealed in an interview with Uganda Radio Network. According to Dr. Mugume, Uganda needs over 500 sniffer dogs but only 200 are available currently. He says that the 200 sniffer dogs are needed to match the sprouting population and rampant crime in the country.
He, however, notes that despite the deficit, Uganda has tremendously improved in using sniffer dog services to prevent and detect crime compared to the early 2000s when the force had only 25 imported breeds. Mugume explains that before the police leadership took a decision in 2013 to locally breed, train and deploy sniffer dogs, the available dogs were overwhelmed by the huge number of crimes committed annually.
Police under the stewardship of the former Inspector General of Police, Gen Edward Kale Kayihura, constructed a breeding center in Naggalama, Mukono district. The center now breeds over 40 dogs every year. Some of the dogs die at a young age while others become incapacitated due to the injuries they sustain during operations.
The imported canine breeds, according to Mugume were exorbitant and too costly to feed. One imported sniffer dog, according to Mugume, could cost more than US$10,000 (about Shilling 37million as per the latest dollar exchange rate). He adds that the imported canines could sometimes die thus leaving the police force counting losses.
Sources say hiring or buying a sniffer dog is extremely expensive and event organizers could pay US$2000 (Shs7.4m) per hour. Mugume elaborates that locally bred and trained sniffer dogs have reduced the costs by more than 80 percent. This means Uganda Police Force doesn’t spend more than Sh7million to breed and train a sniffer dog at its center in Naggalama.
Statistics compiled by the canine unit show that 10,953 robbery, murder, theft, and terror suspects were arrested in 2021 with the help of sniffer dogs. In addition, sniffer dogs have now been deployed in 76 districts, divisions, and regions.
New canine stations have been established in among other Karenga, Kotido, Nabilatuk, and Moroto districts to help in cattle raid investigations. In April this year, sniffer dogs helped police trace and arrest thugs that gang-raped a University student in Kawempe.
The criminals broke into the house at midnight, sexually assaulted the student, and varnished with her electronics. Sniffer dogs traced them into their hideout, which was about 250metres. Mugume adds that police on average collect about 15 crime scene exhibits every day with the help of sniffer dogs.
Police say locally bred sniffers are easy to feed. Each dog is fed meals worth Shillings 8,000 every, which means police spend about Shillings 584 million annually on the more than 200 dogs.
Before setting up a reliable dog breeding center, police imported 10 dogs from Israel, South Africa, and Holland. The breeding center has been under close supervision of 12 police officers who were first trained in Egypt, the US, Italy, Israel, and South Africa.
The number of police officers equipped with skills in managing and deploying canines has since increased from 12 to 350 across the country. Police made it a must for all those who had been trained abroad on police funds to pass the skills to others.
Dogs are able to sniff suspects’ odors using the more than 250 million smell receptors, which are extremely over and above the five million receptors in human beings. Nevertheless, Mugume says sometimes sniffers get confused especially when the scenes have been tampered with by locals who are always first responders.