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Dogs nip at heels of DVD pirates

3 March 08 13:15 GMT

Two more dogs have been lined up to join the war against DVD pirates in Malaysia.

The country is becoming the first to have a dedicated canine anti-piracy unit, thanks to the initial success of two dogs trained in Northern Ireland.

Last year Lucky and Flo made headlines in a pilot scheme and reportedly had a price put on their head by smugglers.

Trained to smell chemicals used in DVD production, labrador retrievers Paddy and Manny are permanent fixtures.

They will go into action next month, according to Malaysia's Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

Mohamad Roslan Mahayuddin, the ministry's enforcement director, said they hoped the dogs will help Malaysia to be taken off a US watch list of countries that abuse intellectual property rights.

"We hope to fight piracy more effectively," he said.

Malaysia decided to establish a dedicated DVD-sniffing squad after the success of Luck and Flo loaned from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The dogs helped authorities unearth 1.6m pirated DVDs and other optical discs and equipment worth more than £3m over six months, Mr Roslan said.

"We found that the dogs are very useful in our operations, especially in fighting piracy," he said.

Paddy and Manny were donated by the MPAA.

They arrived last month and are still adjusting to their new handlers and the tropical weather.

Paddy, a two-year-old black Labrador, is from an animal shelter that rescued him from abuse. Manny, a pale-yellow one-year-old, comes from a dog breeder.

They are trained to sniff out a chemical used in disc production, but cannot distinguish between real and the pirated DVDs.

What they can do is point officers in their raids to hidden caches of discs.

Mohamad Roslan said authorities were taking steps to ensure their safety from angry smugglers, but declined to give any details.

Movie pirates reportedly place a bounty of £15,000 on the heads of the previous team of DVD-sniffing dogs, Lucky and Flo.

Mike Ellis, Asia-Pacific director of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the association spent less than £12,000 to buy and train Paddy and Manny.

"We are not seeing Malaysian products appear all over the world like we used to, so it's more now of a domestic problem. And the dogs will certainly help the domestic problem," he said.

"It raises the awareness of piracy in general."

According to the MPAA, its member studios in the US lost more than £3,073,000,000 to worldwide piracy in 2005, of which the Asia-Pacific region accounted for £604,624,000.

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