TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan's military and police dogs are helping security forces keep the peace.
K9 units help customs officers identify smugglers and search public places for bombs. They also help troops find explosives, land mines, weapons and munitions.
The Tashkent-based National Cynology Centre (NCC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
On June 3 in Tashkent, the Defence Ministry conducted a seminar for dog handlers. Soldiers and patrol dogs sharpened their skills in finding bombs, Defence Ministry spokesman Vladimir Nikolayev told Central Asia Online.
"The participants focused on the potential of police dogs to find bombs in populated areas and on public transit," he added.
20 years of commitment
The government formed the NCC in 1996, Sherdor Tashkhujayev, an NCC employee, told Central Asia Online. "Today the centre ... trains dogs for all of Uzbekistan's security and law enforcement agencies."
The centre gained international recognition, which culminated in the World Customs Organisation making the NCC in 2008 a regional centre "for training specialists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan", Tashkhujayev said.
"K9 training lasts two to six months," he added. "Success to a large degree depends on the connection between the trainer and the dog. The centre has a training ground with model vehicles, railway cars and planes."
Protecting the public
Customs officers and border guards rely on dogs to help protect the public.
"Today K9 handlers are some of the most important employees at border and customs checkpoints," Uzbekistani State Customs Committee spokesman Zafar Zakhidov told Central Asia Online. "No electronic device has yet come close to matching the dogs' ability to smell [drugs]."
"On June 11, K9 units stopped more than 14kg of opium from entering Surkhandarya (Surxondaryo) Province," Zakhidov added. "Authorities arrested three Afghan drug traffickers."
The Uzbekistani public is used to seeing K9 handlers and dogs doing their job.
"In Tashkent, you can see police dogs by subway entrances and in the walkways for transferring on subway lines," Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Samvel Petrosyan told Central Asia Online. "Their duty is to sniff out explosives."
"Yes, you can see huge sheep dogs ... in the subway," Tashkent resident Lailo Inoyatova told Central Asia Online. "They don't come up to sniff people ... But I think that if a threat arises, they'll point out the criminal."
"Every day before every performance, K9 handlers and their dogs sweep all of the theatre's rooms for explosives," Dmitrii Borisov, a Tashkent theatre employee, told Central Asia Online. "Similar security measures are in effect in concert halls, cinemas and other theatres ... We have to do it."
Between 1996 and 2012, K9 units stopped more than 2,000 drug-smuggling attempts, according to the State Customs Committee. They helped find more than 300 weapon and munitions smugglers.
Statistics for 2013 through 2015 are not available.