MEXICO CITY – Maverick, Carter, and Beto are three of the dogs that make up the K9 unit operating in several Mexico City prisons.
Beto sniffs a row of 30 wooden boxes until his remarkable sense of smell warns him of something unusual: a cell phone hidden in one of the boxes.
Beto then barks several times to let his handler know where the cell phone was placed.
This golden retriever is one of the 29 members of a specialized team of dogs, which, along with their human handlers, have helped provide security in Mexico City prisons since 2002.
The dogs and their handlers showed off their skills for reporters this week.
“The dogs represent a deterrent. Some say that they are a weapon, but they serve as a deterrent, and are used the way they have to be used,” the deputy chief of the K9 unit, Carlos Gonzalez, told EFE.
Instructed by his handler, Maverick, an American pitbull terrier, attacks another officer wearing a protective suit, clinging on to his arm until he is ordered to stand down.
According to the handlers, the dogs are only used to attack armed inmates and have been trained to only attack people’s hands and arms.
The dogs are rotated between Mexico City’s four prisons and are kept in an annex of the Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary, where they rest after three months of work.
The relationship between the dogs and their handlers is exceptional.
The handlers train them to jump fences, complete obstacle courses, and respond to every command.
“Each dog has its own personality, breed and nature. We slowly discover every one of the dog’s characteristics,” veterinarian Eduardo Caballero told EFE.
The age average of the dogs in the K9 unit is a little more than 6 and they tend to retire at 9.
Beto, who is 9 and close to retiring, is the eldest, while the youngest is Dante, a 2-year-old Belgian shepherd.