Police sniffer dogs will have to wear bootees when searching the homes of Muslims so as not to cause offence.
Guidelines being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) urge awareness of religious sensitivities when using dogs to search for drugs and explosives. The guidelines, to be published this year, were designed to cover mosques but have been extended to include other buildings.
Where Muslims object, officers will be obliged to use sniffer dogs only in exceptional cases. Where dogs are used, they will have to wear bootees with rubber soles. “We are trying to ensure that police forces are aware of sensitivities that people can have with the dogs to make sure they are not going against any religious or cultural element within people’s homes. It is being addressed and forces are working towards doing it,” Acpo said.
Problems faced by the use of sniffer dogs were highlighted last week when Tayside police were forced to apologise for a crime prevention poster featuring a german shepherd puppy, in response to a complaint by a Muslim councillor.
Islamic injunctions warn Muslims against contact with dogs, which are regarded as “unclean”.
Police dogs at present are issued with footwear only at scenes of explosions to prevent them injuring their paws on broken glass.
Ibrahim Mogra, one of Britain’s leading imams, said the measures were unnecessary: “In Islamic law the dog is not regarded as impure, only its saliva is. Most Islamic schools of law agree on that. If security measures require to send a dog into a house, then it has to be done. I think Acpo needs to consult better and more widely.
“I know in the Muslim community there is a hang-up against dogs, but this is cultural. Also, we know the British like dogs; we Muslims should do our bit to change our attitudes.”
John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: “The police are in effect being overly sensitive to potential criminals and not being sensitive enough to the public at large who need to be protected. These sort of things have a counter-productive effect because they cause huge friction between different communities.”
Caroline Kisko, of the Kennel Club, said: “We would not condone any attempt to make search dogs wear special clothing, which could cause them distress.”