The Use of Military Dogs During Operation Arcanjo

By Dialogo
December 12, 2012

Every operation is a learning opportunity that will lead to improvement and development of our doctrine. This article’s goal is to present the lessons learned from the use of dogs from the Brazilian Army’s 1st Guard Battalion during Operation Arcanjo.

The areas surrounding slum communities such as Penha and Alemão, located in northern Rio de Janeiro, were dominated by organized crime for many years. In December 2010, Security Forces started a pacification process in this region, under the command of the Brazilian Army.

The Pacification Force was created by an official guideline in 2010 and aimed at promoting the guarantee of law and order in an area of operation where police access had been blocked by drug traffickers. The skills and professionalism of the Military was displayed during the actions performed by various troops during the 20 months of occupation in the area. The Army’s performance was put to the test during a fourth generation conflict where the mission was to maintain public order in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Military Dogs in the Brazilian Army

The Brazilian Army systematized the use of dogs in 1967, and authorized their use within the Military Police organizations of the Army during jungle operations and commando activities, and the Airborne Infantry Brigade.

Today, the Military units that use dogs include the Military Police, the Guard, and Special Operations. The animals are used as bodyguards, facility guards, security of sensitive locations, civic and military parades, to escort inmates and to guarantee law and order, especially during conflict-control operations, facilities search, patrolling, demonstrations, and to guard stations and perimeters, increasing the security of barracks.

Military dogs have zootechnical characteristics ideal for military use, and they have good health, endurance, strength, trainability, and vivacity. The war dog is trained (obedience, protection, or scent) for employment during peace or war, with military purposes.

Dogs are a good option during operations because they spare the soldiers’ lives, provide a psychological impact on the enemy, have a small frame and can move rapidly (10 meters in 2 seconds), are immune to tear gas, and precise during searches of illicit material and people. As a non-lethal weapon, war dogs, if used correctly, increase combat power. The psychological effect offered by these animals is very important for the success of a mission, especially if the activities take place in urban areas, where the collateral effect of a failed operation may bring disastrous consequences to a force.

Dogs in the Operation Arcanjo

During the pacification process of the communities in the slums of Penha and Alemão, the Brazilian Army used troops from different states in Brazil supported by war dogs from the 1st Guard Battalion. During the course of over 20 months of occupation, different operations were executed, the larger-scale ones of which requested support from the K-9 Battalion (see image).

Depending on the characteristics of each operation, canines with specific specialities were deployed. For example, sniffing dogs were used during search and arrest operations. However, depending on what they were searching for (drugs, weapons, ammunition, explosives) more specialized dogs were chosen.

Attack dogs joined the riot troops from the Battalion, many of which occasionally acted as reserve for the larger unit being supported. Even performance dogs executed public presentations in the context of the social communication missions.

The fiercest specimens were used for persuasion, mainly during situations in which a disturbance of order was detected, such as the entrance of funk parties to the area on weekends.

The presence of dogs in these areas of operation emphasized the strength of the troops, due to the high level of intimidation that the animals represented, since the possible perpetrators were afraid of being bitten by them.

During the pacification, the foot patrols walking in the alleys and streets were intensified. During these missions, the use of dogs became necessary because their presence protected the officers in the narrow spaces by screening the surroundings as well as anticipating the presence of a possible aggressor.

The Misericordia mountain range is a transitional area that divides the Penha and Alemão complexes; it is covered by Atlantic jungle vegetation, and has a quarry. This region was occupied for a limited time by a sub-unit of the 1st Guard Battalion. During the 15-day occupation, the Battalion’s canines were used to guard the facilities built on top of the hills and the checkpoints along the main entrances that connect one community to the other.

The dogs from the 1st Guard Battalion were also used to screen cars and purses. During certain occasions, riot troops, consisting of the 1st Guard Battalion peloton, were used as reserve for the larger units. It was then that they controlled disruptions during local protests led by drug dealers. The residents of these communities were manipulated by the criminals with the intent of causing stress and humiliating the troops, while hoping that they would react by striking against the population (innocent or not). In these instances, canines proved to be an important tool that dismissed the use of firearms, and increased the combat capability by their great power of intimidation.

The Brazilian Army was sabotaged during the occupation because they were in the drug dealers’ way in important locations within the communities, which used to be dominated by organized crime. These “exclusion zones” represent an efficient strategy to maintain the control of pacified areas. With the help of canines, the troops guarded the entrance point of these communities during some of these operations, thus halting the circulation of weapons and drugs in the region.

The dogs’ headcount in the Brazilian Army is still small, but it will increase thanks to the success and need of these animals in activities that require control and security. They are also tools that dismiss the use of firearms, especially during large events, like those scheduled to take place in Brazil in the coming years, such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.