Joined: 24 Dec 2006
|Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 6:58 am Post subject: Colombian drug dog sniffs on despite death threats
|By Luis Jaime AcostaWed
Jan 24, 10:05 AM ET
She's had a price on her head since 2004 and a 24-hour guard monitors her food for poisoning. For a 5-year-old, she has made a lot of enemies.
But none of this keeps Agata, a golden Labrador who is one Colombia's best drug-sniffing dogs, from doing her job.
Stationed in the southern Amazon River border town of Leticia, Agata works at the local airport. She is the only Colombian police dog to have a contract put out on her by drug smugglers tired of having their goods confiscated.
More than two years ago, police intercepted a message from drug traffickers revealing a plan to poison her.
"We take special care with her food," said Robert Olanda, one of the officers who guards her.
Police say a $10,000 (5,076 pounds) bounty was put on Agata's furry head after a string of detections she made in 2004 in Colombia, the world's biggest cocaine producer.
She is one of nearly 700 dogs employed by Colombian national police to detect cocaine, heroine and explosives used by a mosaic of armed groups involved in Colombia's 4-decade-old guerrilla war, in which thousands are killed every year.
Trained from puppies, the police dogs form a key part of Colombia's U.S.-backed counter-narcotics program.
Leticia is popular among drug smugglers trafficking to neighbouring Brazil and Peru and also north towards the United States, the biggest consumer of Colombian cocaine.
But first they have to get past Agata.
The 80-pound (36 kg) retriever, who energetically investigates about five cargo planes and one passenger flight every day, has helped authorities confiscate 300 kilos of cocaine and 20 kilos of heroin since she started working in 2003.
"This dog has been decorated because she has been one of the most productive in the fight against drugs," said Col. Carlos Medina, police commander for the Amazon region.
As drug-sniffing dogs serve up to seven years in the field, her keepers have already started thinking about retirement.
"I am waiting for the day that happens so that I can take her to my house and let her rest, which is what she deserves," said police dog trainer Oscar Eduardo Chuna.