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6 Remarkable Police Animals

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We’ve seen bookstore cats, animals trained to sniff out bombs and heroic dogs, but now we're here to focus on animals who have served, or are currently serving, their local police departments.

1. Momo, Nara Police Department, Japan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YVn9UKutgAs

We’re used to seeing large police dogs because, let’s face it, a lap dog can’t take down a running fugitive. But there are a lot of other duties for police dogs out there—and a pup doesn't have to be big to sniff out bombs, drugs, or people buried under rubble. So why not have some small dogs work in these specialized areas?

The Japanese made news last year when they hired a tiny little Chihuahua as the Nara Police Department's newest police dog. Momo passed her search and rescue test with flying colors by finding a person within five minutes after smelling their hat. While the little pup might not be able to drag anyone from the rubble, officers do point out that her size provides her with a major advantage when it comes to squeezing into small openings that would be too narrow for most rescue dogs. Of course, in between earthquakes and fires, she’s still doing good community service by looking absolutely adorable.

2. Mattie, Connecticut State Police, United States

When it comes to arson investigations, dogs are better at sniffing out accelerants than most of the investigator’s instruments. But the idea of using dogs for that task is still pretty new; the first dog, a black lab named Mattie, was put to work in 1986. In order to graduate from Accelerant Detection Canine School, which is run by the ATF, she had to be able to identify 17 different types of accelerants in a fire’s aftermath, even when there were only a few drops of the compounds. (Dogs and their handlers can only pass if they have a perfect score in the final test.)

Mattie was placed in service with the Connecticut State Police that same year. While waiting for fires to be put out, she would be brought out to the scene, where she would sniff at any onlookers. In many cases, Mattie was able to identify suspects in the crowd who still had residue from the accelerants on them. Mattie worked with the state police for 11 years before retiring in 1997.

3. Lemon, Kyoto Police Department, Japan

If you think a Chihuahua is a bad police dog, then just imagine having a police cat. To be fair, Officer Lemon operates in a small town in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, which has a population made up of mostly elderly folks, and his only cases involve suspicious phone calls. Lemon doesn't help track down the prank callers, but he does help relax the victims—an important job for police handling these kinds of situations.

Lemon has been with the police since he was two weeks old. Of course, that’s probably why he’s so comfortable in his adorable little uniform; most cats that grew up without clothing probably wouldn’t be so willing to wear the tiny jacket and hat that Lemon sports while on duty.

4. Santisuk, Saiburi Police Department, Thailand

This officer might monkey around a bit, but you’d still better take him seriously—no matter how cute he looks in his little police shirt. Santisuk, a pig-tailed macaque, was adopted by a police officer after he was found with a broken arm. They soon started training him to pick up coconuts and then they realized that he might just help alleviate tensions at police checkpoints.

Their plan worked. When Santisuk stands duty at the checkpoints, motorists happily stop their vehicles and many even pull over to take their picture with the monkey. He has changed the public image of the police force so much that many other police precincts in the area are considering adding their own monkeys to the force.

5 & 6. Echo, Metropolitan Police Department, and Sefton, Household Cavalry, United Kingdom

Echo and Sefton are probably the best remembered police horses, and it’s for a rather sad reason.

The horses were survivors of the July 20, 1982 bombing of Hyde Park. A car bomb—made from 25 pounds of explosives surrounded in 4- and 6-inch nails—killed four soldiers and seven other horses. Echo, part of the Metropolitan Police Department, was left was a piece of shrapnel in his side. Household Cavalry horse Sefton had 38 shrapnel wounds, and his jugular vein was severed. Another Cavalry horse, Yeti, also survived the blast. After the incident, Echo, too nervous to go back to the police department, was retired from duty. Sefton did go back to work for a bit, but eventually, all three horses were retired at the same stable, where they would live for the rest of their lives. When the horses made public appearances, people were touched—Echo and Sefton even received a standing ovation when they appeared at the Horse of the Year show.

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Animals
Miami to Host Inaugural Canine Film Festival
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There’s an annual festival dedicated to internet cat videos, so it only makes sense that dog-lovers would create their own film event. As the Miami New-Times reports, the Magic City will host the inaugural Canine Film Festival on July 15 and 16. The fundraising event encourages movie lovers to enjoy submitted flicks with their furry friends.

The festival will take place at the Cinépolis Coconut Grove and Hotel Indigo in Miami Lakes. Festivities kick off on the first day with “A Day at the Movies With Your Dog,” featuring film screenings attended by dogs and humans alike. Other events scheduled throughout the weekend include a dog fashion show, dog yoga, silent auctions, a canine costume contest, an after-party at Miami Lakes' Hotel Indigo, and an awards ceremony.

Admission costs $10 to $1000, and 50 percent of ticket proceeds will benefit local animal rescues and shelters. For more information, visit the Canine Film Festival's website.

[h/t Miami New Times]

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Big Questions
Why Do Dogs Howl at Sirens?
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A dog's behavior can often prove confusing to their human colleagues. We know they like to eat their own poop, but puzzle at their motivations. We're surprised when dogs give a ladybug the same greeting as a home intruder.

Topping the list of eccentric canine behavior: Why do dogs howl at sirens? Is there some genetic predisposition to responding to a high-pitched alarm from passing ambulances or police vehicles?

As it turns out, the reason dogs howl at sirens is because of their ancestry—namely, the wolf. When members of a pack are fractured and spread out, their companions will howl to provide a way of locating them. Think of it as nature’s GPS: By howling, dogs are able to communicate their respective locations to one another, even across long distances.

Since dogs really don’t know what a cop car is supposed to sound like, they’ll often interpret a siren as an animal’s howl. It’s also possible that dogs consider sirens to be a sign that something is abnormal in their environment, and that they want you, the pack leader, to be aware of it.

Contrary to belief, a dog is rarely howling because the noise hurts their delicate ears. If that were the case, some experts say, then they would display other behaviors, like running and hiding.

The more a dog hears and responds to a siren, the more they might be compelled to continue the behavior. That’s because dogs who howl and then notice the sound drifting away might begin to associate their vocalizing with the disappearance of the noise. In the future, they’ll probably recall that they “drove” the interloper away with their warbling and repeat the process.

While howling is usually harmless, sometimes it can be a sign that your pet is feeling separation anxiety from an owner or that they’re feeling unwell. If howling persists even without a screaming siren within earshot, you might consider taking them in for a check-up.

If you’ve wondered why dogs howl at sirens, now you know. It’s simply a way of signaling their location and not because it pains them. Owners, on the other hand, might feel differently.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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