Currently Railways' dog squad has only 332 canines as against the sanctioned strength of 459 while it has a limited capacity to train 23 dogs at the existing centres at Daya Basti in the capital and Podanur in Chennai.
"There is a requirement of about 2,600 trained dogs including sniffers and trackers in Railways but our dog squad is severely under-strength," said a senior Railway Protection Force official responsible for managing the dog squad.
The central dog breeding and training centre will come up with trained staff at railway land shortly. Railways is in the process of earmarking a suitable area for developing the state-of-the-art centre to strengthen its dog squad.
Sniffer dogs are required to detect explosives and drugs while trackers are pressed into service at the crime scene to detect culprits. Requirement of sniffer dogs is more as these are required at every platform of major stations, but at the moment it is not the case and sniffers are hard-pressed, said the official.
A sniffer or tracker dog needs rest after sniffing for two hours. If you press a sniffer dog for beyond two hours, it will lose interest. Tracker dogs can sniff at the crime scene including theft and sabotage.
Railways is currently buying pups of Doberman, German Shepherd, Labrador, Golden Retriever from private breeders and it costs about Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per dog.
"We are not sure of the breed quality and linage and totally depend on the open market.Once we have our own breeding centre then we will ensure lineage to enrich our dog squad," he said.
While Dobermans and German Shepherds are in demand for tracker squad for their agility, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are best suited in sniffer section.