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Sniffer Dogs in The Philippines to Hunt Down Pirated Movies

Two specially trained sniffer dogs have arrived in the Philippines to carry on a war against video piracy, sniffing out illegally copied movies and other products. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.

The black Labrador retrievers, named Lucky and Flo, made their first raid in Manila Monday, seizing at least 300,000 pirated discs during a check of three shopping malls. Motion Picture Association International supplied the dogs as part of its efforts to cut video piracy.

Neil Gane, of the MPA, gave no figures but says piracy is rampant in the Philippines. Some illegal videos are made in the Philippines but China has been flooding the market too.

"In the last 12 months we have seen an influx of China-made, replicated, pirated DVDs coming into the Philippines - often through parcels on flights arriving at NAIA, which is the international airport at Manila - and are then distributed throughout the Philippines," Gane says.

The sniffer dogs are on an Asian tour. On their first stop, Malaysia, they helped find more than one million discs and burners worth more than three million dollars.

Like other legendary crime fighters the dogs have a price tag on their heads. Gane says Malaysian authorities told him a criminal syndicate had offered $14,000 in bounty for each animal while they were in Malaysia.

Gane says Motion Picture Association studios lost $6.1 billion to piracy worldwide in 2006, including about $1.2 billion in the Asia-Pacific.

He says organized crime finds video piracy lucrative. The illegal trade contributes to money laundering, extortion, bribery and violation of territorial waters.

The sniffer dogs cannot actually tell a pirated DVD from a legal one, they only detect the polycarbonate that the discs are made of. However, they save the police a lot of intelligence work by physically checking out tip-offs.

Edu Manzano, chairman of the Philippine government's Optical Media Board, says the dogs have proved to be an effective enforcement tool.

"Based on the success of our operations yesterday I see a great need for us to adopt a concept of having our own canine unit. Each and every target that the dogs pointed to proved to be positive," Manzano says.

Manzano says that with just 10 dogs Philippine authorities could wage a major offensive against video piracy throughout their country.

In the meantime, Lucky and Flo appear set to have a busy time.