Malaysian authorities said Monday they hope two specially trained dogs will help police sniff out pirated DVDs and clean up the country's reputation as an abuser of intellectual property rights.
Two male Labradors from Northern Ireland, named Paddy and Manny and trained to smell chemicals used in DVD production, will become the world's first permanent canine national anti-piracy unit when they go into action next month, according to Malaysia's Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.
The dogs can't distinguish between real and pirated DVDs. What they do is point officers to hidden caches of discs.
Mohamad Roslan Mahayuddin, the ministry's enforcement director, told reporters Monday he hopes the dogs will help get Malaysia off a U.S. watch list of countries that abuse intellectual property rights.
Malaysia decided to establish the DVD-sniffing squad after a visit last year by a similar team from the U.S. Motion Picture Association. The visiting dogs helped authorities unearth 1.6 million pirated DVDs and other optical discs and equipment worth $6 million over six months, Mohamad Roslan said.
"We found that the dogs are very useful in our operations, especially in fighting piracy," he said.
U.S. studios that are members of the association lost $6.1 billion to worldwide piracy in 2005, including $1.2 billion worth origination in Asia and the Pacific region.
Paddy and Manny were donated by the MPAA, which spent less than $24,000 to buy and train them, according to Mike Ellis, the association's Asia-Pacific director.
"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," Ellis said. "It raises the awareness of piracy."
The pair arrived Feb. 18 and are still adjusting to their new handlers and the tropical weather, Mohamad Roslan said, adding that the dogs would likely start their work in April.
Paddy, a 2-year-old black Labrador, is from an animal shelter that rescued him from abuse. Manny, a pale-yellow 1-year-old, comes from a breeder in northern Ireland.
Movie pirates reportedly placed a bounty of $29,000 on the previous team of DVD-sniffing dogs, Lucky and Flo. Mohamad Roslan said authorities were taking steps to ensure the new dogs are safe from vengeful smugglers, though he declined to give details.