Sniffers practise for the reel thing

SEARCH dogs that will help keep coalition forces safe by sniffing out bombs have been taught crucial skills in a disused cinema that doubled as an Afghan danger zone.

Ten dogs and their handlers used the old Odeon cinema in the Capitol Shopping Centre, Cardiff, to ensure they were fully prepared for the challenges that await them in Afghanistan.

Simon Mallin, of Cardiff-based Malpeet K9 Security, told the Echo: “The dogs will be working for private firms that work very closely with the armed forces on reconstruction projects across the country. They are trained to detect all kinds of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are used as roadside bombs.

“They will mostly be working on vehicle check points and searching vehicles coming into secure facilities, but they could also be required to search a building before a meeting of VIPs.”

Mr Mallin, 41, a former corporal with the Army dog unit in Northern Ireland, said: “These dogs have undergone eight weeks of training when we teach them to recognise the smell of commonly-used explosives and then reward them with their ball.

“It was really good to get them into a live venue like the Capitol, which is full of different smells and where we can practice doing things like taking them in a lift.”

He added: “It was great to find out that they could undertake a task like a building search should they be required to do it.”

The dogs and their handlers have now flown to the Afghan capital Kabul, where they are getting used to the heat and their new handlers before being deployed across the country.

The exercise in the Capitol was organised by the venue’s security contractor Delta, which is associated with Malpeet K9 Security.

Centre manager Jeff Wilson said the drill also helped with his own emergency planning as bomb threats, both real and hoax, pose a major threat to the security of shopping centres across the UK.

He said: “This exercise helped us understand the processes involved when explosive search dogs are used in such circumstances.

“It was a very successful exercise and provided a unique and challenging training environment for the search dogs which not only helped with our own emergency planning, but also provided the dogs with additional experience prior to their deployment overseas.”

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