Lucky and Flo help in piracy bust in the Czech Republic

Lucky and Flo

The distribution and sale of counterfeit DVDs, music CDs and video games are a bigger problem in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in Europe, with losses for the entertainment industry estimated at around one billion crowns (around 54 million US dollars) a year. Curbing the seemingly never-ending flow of smuggled discs is an uphill climb but the Czech police got a helping hand - or rather paw over the weekend - from Lucky and Flo - the famous pair of black Labrador retrievers who are the first animals trained to detect the unique scent of a compact disc.

Flo and Lucky -three-year old black Labs trained by a handler in Northern Ireland - have shown off their skills in many parts of the world. They have been trained to smell the specific chemicals used in the production of discs and although they cannot distinguish between legitimate and pirated ones, the dogs take only ten minutes to check boxes that security officials would need a day to examine. Over a period of six months in Malaysia they helped to detect close to two million pirated discs. They were received in Prague like celebrities and everyone wanted to see them at work. As TV cameras rolled, the dogs detected one box after another at two big markets close to the Czech-German border. In the course of two days they found over 15,000 pirated discs worth around eleven million crowns. Customs officers watching them did not hide their admiration - or their desire to acquire such helpers. Jiri Bartak of the Czech Customs Office says this may be the way to go.

"The Czech Customs Office now trains dogs to detect weapons, explosives, drugs and tobacco and I think we will seriously consider training dogs to detect compact discs."

Czech specialists estimate that the training of one dog would cost approximately 70 thousand crowns - but the actual process would not be that simple. At present Lucky and Flo are the only two dogs in the world able to detect optical discs by scent. Although Labradors have a great aptitude for this kind of work they were chosen out of several hundred dogs tested for this purpose and received intensive training for over two months. In order to achieve this, Czech customs officials may have to enlist the services of their Irish trainer or buy already trained dogs. As for Lucky and Flo - having done a good job in the Czech Republic they left to demonstrate their skills in Poland and Germany.

And Czech officers regretfully went back to the painstaking job of opening and sifting through one box after another in the hope of finding pirated goods.