Thieves Steal Drug-Sniffing Dog

Okay; this is clever:

Rex IV, a highly trained Belgian Malinois sheepdog with a string of drug hauls behind him, was checked on to a flight from Mexico City this week with seven other police dogs bound for an operation in the northern state of Sinaloa.

But when the dogs arrived at Mazatlan airport, Sinaloa, their police handlers discovered a small black mongrel puppy inside Rex IV's cage, with the sniffer dog nowhere to be seen.

Whatever drug lord ordered that hit probably saved himself a whole lot of grief.

EDITED TO ADD (8/29): The dog was found in a park:

Working on a tip, federal police found Rex IV -- a highly trained Belgian Malinois sheepdog with a string of drug hauls to its name -- tied to a tree in a park in the gritty Iztapalapa neighborhood, a Public Security Ministry spokesman said.

"When they realized the police were onto them, they abandoned him in a park," the spokesman told Reuters, adding that the dog's identity was confirmed by scanning an embedded electronic chip.

Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat? I take it back: not so clever.

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 6:59 AM • 54 Comments

Comments

RCAugust 29, 2007 7:16 AM

This exploit takes advantage of the fact that there are too few drug sniffing dogs. If such dogs were numerous, this attack would not be worth the risk. So the solution is to train many more dogs.

jkohenAugust 29, 2007 7:18 AM

@RC

No, your idea is too simple and useful. It will probably turn out in a prohibition to fly with small black puppies.

KiloAugust 29, 2007 7:37 AM

"This exploit takes advantage of the fact that there are too few drug sniffing dogs. If such dogs were numerous, this attack would not be worth the risk. So the solution is to train many more dogs."
Posted by: RC at August 29, 2007 07:16 AM


There were 7 drug sniffing dogs and 1 was taken. That's an odd option if you were looking to reduce the number of drug sniffing dogs.

On the other hand, if you steal the #1 drug sniffing dog and pre-screen your own drug shipments for detectable odours, you don't have to worry about dogs #2 onwards when you do ship.

Although there's nothing to suggest something that bright is going on here.

Richard VeryardAugust 29, 2007 7:51 AM

Why do you assume the thieves wanted the dog to help conceal their own stash? Perhaps they wanted the dog to help raid a rival gang. (The news story refers to "turf wars").

Not only do the attackers have surprising tactics, they may have surprising motives.

Security isn't always Us versus Them; sometimes it is Them versus Them. Or even (think friendly fire and security theatre) Us versus Us.

Richard VeryardAugust 29, 2007 7:56 AM

Did the thieves have time to retrain the dog? If it starts biting innocent passengers, then perhaps the entire sniffing programme will have to be suspended.

MSBAugust 29, 2007 8:51 AM

"Did the thieves have time to retrain the dog?"

The Manchurian Canine Candidate? :)

NyhmAugust 29, 2007 8:55 AM

The fact that the dog was switched (not just taken outright) implies the kidnapping happened post-checkin and pre-loading onto the plane, so that airline personnel would not take notice of an empty cage being loaded.

... just trying to get my brain working today ...

National sausage and hot dog councilAugust 29, 2007 9:01 AM

If the dog is now fitted with lojack that could be a step toward avoiding or attacking the team he is with.

Best of BreedAugust 29, 2007 9:36 AM

Were there any markings on the containers they were being transported in that indicated they were drug detection dogs? If not, the dog might not have been stolen for drug related reasons at all. It might have been stolen because it was a sheepdog. When the thieves figured out it was a drug detection dog they might have abandoned it for that reason, and this would also explain why they didn't kill it.

Joe PattersonAugust 29, 2007 9:38 AM

"An airline employee told investigators a man posing as a police officer appeared at the counter and asked to switch the puppy for Rex IV because the Malinois was unwell."

That's brash. An excellent example of social engineering.

AnonymousAugust 29, 2007 9:46 AM

It was just a thief in the cargo area. Had nothing to do with drug lords, etc., they thought they could ransom the pup or sell it as it may not be a common bred for Mexico.

BillAugust 29, 2007 9:48 AM

Maybe they just wanted a new pet and didn't realise the significance of this particular dog.

FredAugust 29, 2007 10:06 AM

This reminds me of the earlier article about confusing effect with aims. It sounds like the theif just wanted to steal an expensive dog, and didn't consider the theft's effect on drug interdiction. The fact that there could have been an effect was apparently irrelevant to the thief.

D. GreeneAugust 29, 2007 10:14 AM

"Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat? I take it back: not so clever."

One possibility: not all drug criminals are as heartless as the media makes them out to be?

MichaelAugust 29, 2007 10:53 AM

"An airline employee told investigators a man posing as a police officer appeared at the counter and asked to switch the puppy for Rex IV because the Malinois was unwell."

Well there's your problem.

doppelfishAugust 29, 2007 10:58 AM

For a minute, I was wondering whether the police would break out the drug-sniffing-dog-sniffing dogs.

Matt from CTAugust 29, 2007 11:07 AM

If they were out to kill the dogs, slipping poisoned hamburg into the crates would've been much simpler and less likely to attract attention.

This was just petty theft.

National sausage and hot dog councilAugust 29, 2007 11:09 AM

Title as described on reddit by "mightybyte":
How to verify that your next incoming drug shipment is real (reuters.com)

dragonfrogAugust 29, 2007 11:10 AM

I second D. Greene's suggestion - drug trafficking, while a risky business, has nothing about it that demands heartlessness.

If they were heartless, they could have blown up the whole plane, and the dog would not have been missed. Are we saying they're "not so clever" because they chose not to commit a mass murder in order to slightly reduce their risk of being caught?

simongabrielAugust 29, 2007 11:16 AM

Have to point out Bruce... when I told my co-workers this story their first thought was "why would it be clever to kill the dog??"

As has been mentioned above, their first thought was that a dog this well trained could easily be used to either beat the cops or raid rivals for their drugs. I admit this thought didn't cross my mind at first, but I suppose I'm not as much of a potential criminal as my co-workers. haha.

dmcAugust 29, 2007 11:20 AM

I'm with Richard Veryard...my first reaction was that they wanted the dog so that they could find saleable goods that were already confiscated or still in custody of other drug lords.

Bill KishAugust 29, 2007 11:27 AM

Maybe they wanted the drug-sniffing dog in order to test anti-drug-sniffing dog systems!

Timmy303August 29, 2007 11:30 AM

I'd like to think that even cold, hardened, murderous, drug trafficking b4stards would find it difficult to kill a sweet, loyal, lovely fluffy puppy doggie.

CAugust 29, 2007 11:32 AM

Bruce,

Why would you even suggest killing the dog? Unless they've become, violent, dogs are inocent.

IMO, its like suggesting kidnappers kill the kid after they find out they're the child of a police commisioner or something.

Timmy303August 29, 2007 11:32 AM

I'd have kept the dog just long enough to train it to ignore coke and then returned it. Preferably for a reward.

PeterAugust 29, 2007 11:35 AM

Maybe they just substituted the dog to show they could. It says "It's no good sniffing around here, we've already hidden the stash" in a way that entertains the media and humiliates the cops.

MiscAugust 29, 2007 11:40 AM

Bill -- that was my thought, too. I figured they'd use the dog to test methods to "dog-proof" transportation of drugs.

sooth_sayerAugust 29, 2007 11:41 AM

it had nothing with police were unto them .. they just the newswire that Michael Vick had made the deal .. so the figure the gig's up lol

AnonymousAugust 29, 2007 12:18 PM

"Why not"? Strange question - maybe because they've got a conscience and don't want to harm innocent animals?

(It wouldn't even buy them anything; it's not as if one drug-sniffing dog more or less will make a real difference.)

DesensitizationAugust 29, 2007 1:23 PM

"Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat? I take it back: not so clever."

Do you here betray a belief that murderous practices deserve at least a begrudging respect if they qualify as 'clever' ? So inured to the violence of drug illegalization have we become that we disdain those who pass up an opportunity to immorally kill, if the 'hit' (a term intended to sanitize and glorify the nature of the act) advances their interests?

Or just not much of an animal lover? To each his own.

RAugust 29, 2007 1:29 PM

Maybe they didn't want to hurt the innocent doggy: The business of drug trafficking sometimes requires harming innocent people. Also, it stands to reason that such a task would go to professionals.

Maybe they wanted the dog alive: If one can't secure an asset, denying it to the enemy may be the next best choice.

What's one drug-sniffing dog more or less? An expensive asset.

LDPAugust 29, 2007 1:29 PM

There are a lot of things about this that indicate that it was done to send a message. First off, posing as a police officer to steal this particular dog is a pretty good sign that the thieves knew what they were doing. Otherwise, why not pose as a veterinarian or as a health department official, either of which would incur far less severe penalties if caught (not to mention deniability -- "I just wanted a nice dog! I have nothing to do with drug dealers!) Furthermore, going so far as to replace the dog with a mongrel puppy?! Now that's just adding insult to injury!

Then again, maybe the puppy itself had an embedded transmitter. If the police brought it back to the kennel, the drug guys now know where it is.

As for this: "Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat?...", I have to agree with the general consensus. Maybe there's even more honor among thieves than there is in the NFL...

DoggiesAugust 29, 2007 3:43 PM

All this talk of killing dogs, and no reference to Michael Vick's recent conviction for dog fighting..

What better dog to bring into a dog fighting ring then a police trained one?

Timmy303August 29, 2007 3:50 PM

Doggies has it - this was a fake story, a police plant. The real Rex is infiltrating dog fighting rings to bring down the rest of the Michael Vicks out there. We're behind you Rex!

JackAugust 29, 2007 4:29 PM

If I was trafficking drugs, I would not want them to be detected. Is there a sure fire way to make certain my product would make it to where it needs to go? No. But testing my "methods" with one of their "methods" is a big help.
That is, if this dog was cooperative. If he was not, I might leave him somewhere. Like a park. Tied to a tree. Because I'm a considerate man. Or maybe I'd test my methods and then ditch the dog to get the heat off. Maybe I'm a cat person anyway.

SteightonAugust 29, 2007 5:48 PM

If we accept that the dog was kidnapped to test that the cartel's shipping methods could make it through the dog-sniff security system, then why would you want to kill the dog you dog-napped. Doesn't it make sense that once you had developed a system that could beat *that dog*, then you would want *that dog* to be the one on the job?

What good does it do to develop a system that passes Rex IV, when Rex IV isn't the dog that's doing the sniffing? Your best bet is to do your best to insure that Rex IV is returned safely.

Miles BaskaAugust 29, 2007 6:21 PM

"Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat? I take it back: not so clever."

No, VERY clever. Stick the dog's nose in a bag of coke -- let him get a good sniff, but not a lethal dose. The dog will no longer be able to detect coke in luggage -- you ruin the asset.

However, I suspect the cops know this, too, and will test their star sniffer before they put him back on the job.

Danny YeeAugust 29, 2007 9:40 PM

Killing a dog is not necessarily that easy. Drug dealers are not all trained killers, and even people who have killed humans have been known to have trouble killing animals.

In my experience with sniffer dogs, they always seem to be rather cute.

rblaaAugust 30, 2007 2:32 AM

What if the dog was poisoned in some mild way as to render it ineffective? Maybe they peppered its nose?

SparkyAugust 30, 2007 2:55 AM

Interesting point, poisoning the dog. But why just this dog?

Imagine someone would, over a period of time, poison the food supply of the police dog kennels. I'd think they all eat the same, and the dogfood being bought in large quantities. Now imagine the poison wouldn't kill the dogs, or have any apparent ill effects, other than deteriorating their sense of smell.

Figuring out what chemical (or biological) agent to use is left as an exercise to the reader.

MitchAugust 30, 2007 8:00 AM

I'm assuming they didn't kill the dog because they were intending to use it to determine whether their attempts to conceal drugs from a sniffer dog were "up to scratch".

RofloAugust 30, 2007 9:12 AM

I assume they already smuggled whatever they wanted to. And didn't mind if the dog was still alive.

Reminds me of the movie "Snatch"...
.. maybe they didn't have the heart to kill a poor dog.

purpleslogAugust 30, 2007 9:59 AM

"Why didn't they just slit the dog's throat? I take it back: not so clever."

It was a failed kidnapping...and they were not fearful of the dog identifying them later.

LlywelynAugust 30, 2007 10:40 AM

They probably just wanted the dog for some other purpose. Assuming they knew what it was and that it was more valuable to them alive than dead then if they leave it alive they have the chance to capture it again at some later point.

There are lots of reasons I can think of for having a living dog, some of which have been pointed out by others. Hell, they simply may have wanted to auction it off to someone who was interested in developing methods to beat drug dogs.

By leaving the living dog, they also may have been thinking that the pursuit would have slacked off a bit.

CosAugust 31, 2007 10:18 AM

My assumption on reading the first story was not that they wanted to deprive the police of the dog; it was that they wanted to use the dog's services.

wallyhSeptember 16, 2007 12:14 PM

Perhaps someone in the transport/distribution part of the organization made off with some product. He either escaped or died before revealing where it was hidden. So they borrowed or hired a tool to find their stolen goods.

They can't openly ask the police to help them. Perhaps they didn't kill the dog because they had hired him and they may need his services again.

A real thinker.October 4, 2007 2:35 PM

First of all, you assume that the capturers would even know how to use the dog for drug detection. The common person would definitely make this mistake in thinking that the dog will just find drugs on its own. The fact is that these types of dogs are trained with one owner it's entire adolences and usually is trained to only respond to that same person. They go as far as making the individual go every where with his K-9, including sleeping with it. Part of the training is to make sure the handler has complete control over his K-9. There are a very high number of dogs that do not make it through the training because of this reason. The untrained person would not even know what to look for as a indication that the K-9 has found drugs or a buried bone. Now unless someone is going to take the time to let the dog train the handler, which in this case I don't think they had to time, it would be pointless to keep the dog. Additionally the article is talking about Mexico, an area where cops are currupt, so this so called man who was "impersonating' a cop was probably really a cop. That would explain how they even new the dogs were drug-sniffing dogs.

RalphApril 26, 2008 12:04 AM

Is presence of other domestic animal products (such as a cat , or urine be problematic for drug dogs in their investigation.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..