AFP prefers ‘askal’ over ‘imported’ dogs for K-9 duty
Move over, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.
The “askal” (“asong kalye,” or street dog) or “aspin” (“asong Pinoy,” or Filipino dog) is better suited for K-9 security unit duties than “imported” breeds, a military spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“Our aspins are acclimatized to the weather and so they do not get tired easily when the weather gets hot,” said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Padilla noted that a Belgian Malinois, a German Shepherd or a Labrador assigned to shopping malls would lie down after a few hours.
“He’s already tired because he’s not acclimatized,” said the AFP spokesperson.
He made the comment after being asked about the Commission on Audit (COA) report that there was a shortage of K-9 bomb-detecting dogs to protect President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I read that earlier but … I think the AFP is already in the process of getting more canines, but it will take a little bit more time to get them,” he said.
“You know how tedious our procurement and acquisition [process] here in the Philippines is,” he added.
More security personnel
In the meantime, Padilla said more security personnel would be deployed to protect the President amid the K-9 shortage.
“These personnel now will be filling those gaps so more inspections … stricter standards to follow in screening bags and other equipment, and other measures that could perhaps make up for that gap,” he said.
In its report, the COA said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had only 20 dogs left as of Dec. 31 last year, short of the ideal 25 for “effective bomb-detection operations during presidential engagements.”
Despite the AFP’s preference for askals, the PSG spokesperson, Lt. Col. Michael Aquino, said the PSG would get additional dogs from abroad.
“We are stricter in the PSG. We measure their accuracy … at least 95 percent. So, it’s not really easy to acquire new dogs. These are top-of-the-line dogs based on international standards,” Aquino said.
“It could be said that there’s a shortage but that does not mean that we are remiss in our duties,” he added.
Ideally, the PSG should have 30 bomb-sniffing dogs this year but it has only 27, according to Aquino.
He said the PSG had set aside P3.5 million to acquire three additional dogs. The last time the PSG acquired bomb-sniffing dogs was in 2004.
From Australia, US
He said the PSG could get its bomb-sniffing dogs from Australia, the United States and Canada.
“But not all aspins are meant for (K-9 security duties). There are aspins that adapt and there are those who learn quickly,” Padilla said.
“Our soldiers know that. They know how to identify (the smart ones),” he added.
Padilla said aspins serving in the AFP’s K-9 units were considered part of its “enlisted” personnel.
“They are provided serial numbers and we also have a cemetery for those who sacrificed their lives in the service. They are also serving in Mindanao,” he said.
The training of dogs begins when they are still puppies, according to Padilla.
The Air Force has a K-9 training facility in Clark Air Base, while the Army has training facilities in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Tanay, Rizal, and Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
“So, a handler will be assigned a puppy to train and that puppy will work with that handler all throughout his career,” Padilla said.
He said dogs played a “very important role” in security operations, particularly in sniffing out bombs or illegal drugs.
“They have a very, very keen sense of smell. They can detect even a small particle of drug or gunpowder or any residue that anyone can have in a container or a bag,” he said.
“Many K-9s are serving in the Armed Forces to detect bombs, illegal drugs, and to search for people who are in the battle zone,” he added.