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India stray dogs to be part of security detail in New Delhi

NEW DELHI -- Stray canines roaming the Indian capital may soon find themselves attending police training school with civic authorities planning to turn the animals into security dogs, reports said Saturday.

New Delhi residents have long informally adopted some strays as watchdogs and fed them, but this marks the first formal plan to turn them into municipal security dogs.

Delhi authorities said they would enlist police animal trainers to work with the strays and press the canines into service as guard dogs alongside a newly formed “May I Help You?” city security force which aims to assist the public and bolster safety.

“If these dogs are going to roam the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corp) area, they might as well work,” the civic body's chairman, Jalaj Shrivastava, told The Hindu newspaper.

“Our plan is to adopt these strays and train them as guard dogs” to work with the public security force — 40 officers have already been deployed with the city planning to engage as many as 700, he added.

While some stray dogs are friendly and docile, others are more menacing and there is a high incidence of dog bites in India.

“This initiative is meant to address two issues: take the strays off the streets, thereby tackling the dog menace, and make the city safer for residents,” added Shrivastava.

There are no recent figures on the number of dogs in Delhi but a 2009 city survey put them at more than 260,000.

The reports did not say how many dogs would be used in the security scheme.

Dogs will be fed and vaccinated under the plan, welcomed by animal rights activists.

“This will engage the street dogs with society and also benefit people,” Radha Unnikrishnan, an animal rights activist, told the Hindustan Times.

A 2001 law forbids killing the roaming dogs and the stray population has soared, feeding on India's infamous mountains of street garbage as well as on scraps given to them by residents. Hindus object to the killing of many types of animals.

Cities across India already run sterilization and vaccination programs but an estimated 20,000 people die each year from rabies infections in India, over a third of the global total.

The stray dog program is the latest animal initiative in New Delhi.

A federal minister earlier this month announced authorities were deploying 40 professional monkey impersonators in government buildings to frighten away rhesus macaque monkeys which terrorize bureaucrats, invading offices, grabbing files and snatching food.

The men mimic sounds of langurs, which were used to chase away macaques around Delhi for decades until authorities started enforcing two years ago a four-decade-old wildlife law that bans keeping langurs in captivity.

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