ISLAMABAD, Sept 2: An expensive trained Labrador dog belonging to the Search and Rescue K-9 unit of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) died allegedly after it was fed low quality food.

The civic authority had decided to purchase trained dogs following the October 8, 2005 earthquake to search for people trapped under the rubble. Prior to the current Labrador dog’s death, the K-9 unit had a total of 17 dogs which were handled by 16 trainers.

An official of the K-9 unit, requesting anonymity, said the unit was established in 2008 to provide support to the authority’s disaster management directorate to conduct rescue operations during any disaster.

He said the K-9 unit had served in prime casualty areas. For example, the unit had assisted the Pakistan Army in a rescue operation in Siachen in April 2012 to help recover soldiers trapped in an avalanche.

“In almost every fire incident, these dogs play a primary role in finding trapped people inside buildings,” the official added.

“All the dogs are expensive since they are highly trained in finding people trapped under the rubble. They are continually given drills on modern rescue skills by trained handlers,” said an official of the civic authority.

The official said the dogs had been purchased from the army’s Dog Centre in Rawalpindi in two phases; first in 2008 and later in 2009. He added that both the handlers and the dogs had been trained by the Swedish Rescue Service Agency.

He said a Labrador served for almost eight to ten years on rescue assignments during its average life of 12 to 13 years.

An official in the CDA said, “For the past three months, the authority failed to manage the K-9 unit properly. This is because the file related to the release of financial grants for dog food is still pending in one of the financial wings of the authority.”

“Proper dog food for the 16 dogs costs Rs150,000 per month, but the authority has failed to release the grant since it has no money,” he maintained, adding that, “Red tape is also prevailing in the authority as the file is moving from one department to another.”

The official said the dog in the K-9 Unit died because it was being fed low quality food for the past several days.

“The cheap food may have been brought from Rawalpindi where packed dog food is sold without any safety guidelines. No expiry date is mentioned on such animal food,” he said. He added that the dog had died ‘instantly’ because it had been sick for the past several days.

However, when approached, the CDA spokesman Dr Naeem Rauf said, “We admit that a Labrador died at the K-9 unit of the authority. However, its postmortem report indicates that it died because of a liver infection.”

He said a probe was already in progress to ascertain the causes of the Labrador’s death.

However, Dr Rauf maintained that had there been an issue with the feed, the other dogs would have been infected as well.

Asked why the authority had failed to release the grant for quality dog food, he said, “Right now, there are no financial issues at all. I am well versed that the dogs are being fed proper food.”

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