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Police dogs wired for action

A Northumbria police dog wears the protective Bark 'N Boots.
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Great Britain

(CNN) -- The police dogs in Northumbria, in the northeast of England, could be among the best-dressed and most tech-savvy canines in the world.

Not only do they have their own protective footwear, they also wear miniature cameras during building searches, which send back images off site to police officers.

The idea to give the dogs protective footwear was inspired by Fire Search and Rescue dogs in Britain, who also wear the boots to protect their feet from broken glass during fires.

Made by Oregon-based company Ruff Wear, which specializes in making innovative gear for dogs, the "Bark 'N Boots" are made from a tough high-tech fabric, which is extremely difficult to cut, and have a hard-wearing sole which grips the surface.

Police constable Alex McLeod, of Northumbria Police, said previously there were situations in which dogs could not be deployed because of glass and other sharp objects, which would injure their paws.

"The boots are also of benefit, for example, when an officer is searching premises for a suspect after a burglary. There is often glass on the floor but now the dog can safely be used in the search," he said.

"As far as we are aware, no other force provides protection for their dogs in this way during public order situations."

The police force has also invested in a miniature camera to enable its most specialized dogs, called firearms dogs, to enter building searches and relay information back to officers before they enter the scene.

The highly trained canines are used in incidents involving armed or dangerous persons.

The camera replaces an older version which was much bigger and also required the dog to carry a large battery pack in order for the camera to work.

This meant the dog tired quicker that it does using the current model, which is small enough and light enough to sit on its head.

It enables the dog to enter premises and send back information to officers before they enter the building, including the layout of the area and possibly the location of suspects.

Called Fido, the camera system consists of a miniature television camera and radio transmitter mounted on a lightweight head harness.

It is also fitted with infra-red lights, which means even in total darkness, images can be recorded. Pictures are viewed on a receiver unit carried by the police dog handler, and an audio facility allows the handler to listen to any activity where the dog is searching.

Sergeant Glen Bland, of Northumbria Police's dog section, said the new system was about 75 percent lighter than the older version.

"The previous camera system had a heavy battery pack which meant the dogs got tired quickly and were unable to go up or down a steep slope particularly fast," he said.

"It also produces improved picture quality. The dogs can operate absolutely as normal and just seem to forget the camera is there."

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