Mechem opens new dog facility


Denel subsidiary Mechem has opened a new facility for the dogs it uses in its mine and unexploded ordnance clearing business.

The new building at Mechem`s compound north of Pretoria will replace the temporary administration structure that employees at the dog unit used to work from.

Mechem CE Ashley Williams says the facility will enable the company to better meet the needs of its growing list of international clients, while catering for the dog unit`s internal requirements.

As the only African demining company to be registered with the United Nations, providing critical services including demining, battle area clearance (removal of unexploded ordnance post-conflict), contraband detection, training, and the sale of mine protected vehicles, dogs have come to play an integral role in Mechem`s diverse operations, Williams adds.

The company`s canine unit currently houses 70 trained dogs and runs a working dog breeding and puppy training programme, both of which were established earlier this year.

Internationally acclaimed dog ethologist, Dr Hannes Slabbert specifically designed the breeding programme to operate in phases, allowing Mechem to breed and train top class working dogs within an 18 month period.  

Bred according to client needs and to meet internal demands, the company`s dogs have been used by SAA, various schools and mines and the Royal Bafokeng authority locally, while an order for 80 dogs was recently received by the Angolan police force. 

Training in disciplines ranging from basic dog care to dog handlers has also been presented to members of the South African Police Services, Metro Police Services and various international clients.

“This launch is a direct response by Mechem to meet the local and international demand that exists for working dogs,” adds Williams. “Dogs are essential members of Mechem`s work teams and we are committed to treating them as such.

“Needless to say, it is important that we provide their trainers with state-of-the-art facilities, comprising everything from meeting areas to changing rooms.”

The new facility will also house Mechem`s MEDDS (MECHEM Explosives and Drug Detection System) unit.

A rapidly growing area of the company`s business, Williams explained that while contraband detection typically involves taking the dog to the scent, MEDDS reverses this – bringing the scent to the dog,

“In this way it cost-effectively builds capability within a canine unit, multiplying a single dog`s detection capabilities exponentially.”

The MEDDS process involves training a dog to detect odours from filter samples rather than from actual objects. A mobile suction device is used to collect air samples from a car, room or container.

The filter from the device is then presented to the trained dog to sniff for the presence of contraband odour. “As a result, a dog can get through 100 times more filter samples than it would have by smelling the object itself.  Because a filter is used, MEDDS also ensures far more effective detection with less contact and contamination of the object in question,” he added.

“The work in which Mechem is involved is of international importance, as is clearly evidenced by our value-adding partnership with the United Nations in numerous countries around the world,” continues Williams.

“We hope that this will be the start of even greater things for us, enabling the company to make our country and continent an even safer place for all our children.”


Pic: MEDDS demonstrated