Originally Published in Associated Press on August 20, 2007
Malaysia gave a hero’s send-off Monday to Lucky and Flo, honoring the two DVD-sniffing dogs with medals as they ended a six-month assignment that netted 1.6 million illegal movie discs.
The two black Labradors looked puzzled when a multitude of press photographers’ flash bulbs went off as Malaysia’s deputy trade minister S. Veerasingham placed medals around their necks.
“What they have helped us achieve in such a short time is remarkable,” said Veerasingham. “Malaysia is committed to wiping out piracy and pirates. We will go after them very fast.”
The world’s first dogs trained to identify optical discs by the scent of their chemicals, Lucky and Flo were loaned to the Malaysian government in March by the Motion Picture Association, a U.S.-based watchdog.
During that stint — dubbed Operation Double Trouble — they helped unearth 1.6 million DVDs and other optical discs, three DVD replicating machines and 97 compact disc burners, worth $6 million. Twenty-six people were arrested during the raids.
The operations were so successful that Malaysian movie pirates were reported to have placed a bounty of $29,000 on the dogs, prompting them to be kept under close guard.
The two dogs will leave on Aug. 23 for New York, where they will take part in shows and also help in raids on movie pirates.
The dogs cannot distinguish between pirated and legal discs, but that can be easily done by enforcement officers once the dogs had unearthed the caches. In at least one instance, the dogs uncovered a secret room behind a false wall.
The domestic trade ministry will set up a canine unit later this year to unearth pirated DVDs. Two new dogs will be trained in Ireland by the same trainer who taught Lucky and Flo, said Veerasingham.
According to the MPA, its member studios in the U.S. lost $6.1 billion to worldwide piracy in 2005, of which the Asia-Pacific region accounted for $1.2 billion and the United States for $1.3 billion.