The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has restarted a long-dormant dog breeding program it hopes will replenish its stock of explosive-sniffing canines as well as its dwindling coffers by selling them to others, including riot police.
The first litter of six Malinois, a type of Belgian shepherd, was born at CMAC’s dog training center in Kompong Chhnang province on August 8 and another is due on Sunday.
Since abandoning a troubled breeding program in 2008 due to a lack of funding, the government has imported its demining dogs from Europe at a cost of thousands of dollars each, CMAC Director-General Heng Ratana said.
Though CMAC’s budget is once again dwindling—it’s losing hundreds of deminers through attrition to cope with the loss of foreign aid—the center hopes to turn a new breeding program into a potentially major revenue stream.
“We have reactivated the breeding of demining dogs and we’re optimistic,” Mr. Ratana said on Thursday. “We have a plan to breed many dogs. We hope to breed 50 to 100 dogs next year and at least 30 this year.”
If successful, only some of them will join the 33 demining dogs CMAC has in the field right now.
“We have talked with some relevant ministries to provide them with dogs, but we have not yet discussed how many dogs they will get because we are waiting to see the success of the breeding program this year,” Mr. Ratana said. “We will make a detailed plan with our partners later.”
He said Norwegian People’s Aid, which has provided CMAC with demining dogs in the past, has trained some of the center’s staff to teach the new dogs, and that the field success of the few dogs Cambodia managed to breed in 2008 was proof that those born here work just as well as the ones it has imported.
Prak Somathy, who runs the dog training center, said CMAC had 10 dogs in its breeding program and hopes to buy another dozen from Germany next year, 10 females and two males.
“We have trained dogs for demining before, but now we are training them for narcotics, security when police need them for anti-terrorism, and for home guard dogs,” and even for controlling riots, he said. “We will breed the dogs to sell to the relevant ministries because CMAC is an autonomous agency and needs to find money to cover its expenses.”
After a year of training, he said, the dogs could be sold for $2,000 or more. So if it reaches its upper goal of breeding 100 dogs, for use by riot police and others, CMAC would fetch at least $200,000.
CMAC is projecting an operating budget of about $10 million this year, down from $14.1 million last year.
Spokesmen and officials for the Interior Ministry and National Police could not be reached on Thursday for comment about the possibility of buying dogs from CMAC. Military police spokesman Eng Hy said he was unaware of any plans to buy dogs.