Critical shortage of dogs in SA police’s K9 unit

FILE PICTURE: Members of the South African Police Services. Picture: Morapedi Mashashe

“We have 224 trained canine handlers without dogs and then 197 members at units awaiting training.”

The South African Police Service (SAPS) K9 units are experiencing a critical shortage of operational police dogs, MPs were told on Friday.

“We have 224 trained canine handlers without dogs and then 197 members at units awaiting training, and then 215 old operational dogs are in the process of being boarded,” said major general Michael Motlhala, SAPS component head for policing emergency services while briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police.

According to the document Motlhala presented to MPs, the majority of the handlers without dogs were in the patrol division (95), followed by the explosives division (84), narcotics (31). There was a shortage of nine tracker dogs.

The shortage, according to the presentation, was impacting on “the apprehension of suspects”, “tracking suspects”, “the seizure of firearms and explosives”, and “the seizure of narcotics”.

SAPS had been allocated R10-million for the 2015/15 financial year, but so far only R3-million had been spent.

According to Motlhala, the K9 units have three sources for their dogs – through the SAPS breeding programme, donations, and purchasing from private breeders.

However, the SAPS breeding section was contributing very little, as it was still in the process of setting up breeding infrastructure.

Dog donations had relative success, but were “inconsistent and unreliable”.

“Then we also, through our SAPS procurement processes … currently busy with that process to ensure we procure more dogs [from private breeders],” said Motlhala.

The procurement process was, however, seen as “cumbersome and slow”.

“Most suppliers work on a first come, first serve basis, where cash buyers take preference.”

Motlhala said their human resource, supply chain management and finance divisions were working on streamlining the procurement process.

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