The Tayside Police advertisement featuring a dog upset many in the Muslim community
London, July 6: Police sniffer dogs may wear rubber-sole bootees when searching mosques and the homes of Muslims in the UK because the animals are considered to be haram in Islam, it was disclosed today.
Bootees are the sort of woollen boots that babies wear.
A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) confirmed to The Telegraph that the cultural sensitivities of Muslims would be taken into account when determining when and how sniffer dogs would be used.
Current Acpo guidelines on police use of dogs are being redrafted, she said. Where possible, the police will take cultural sensitivities into account, providing this does not interfere with effective operational policing.
While a big proportion of the British public would probably consider the idea of putting bootees on dogs to be either ridiculous or a form of appeasement or both, it is also the case that Muslim worshippers have found it deeply offensive when police dogs have been brought into mosques right in the middle of prayers.
On the other hand, highly trained dogs are an invaluable aid to the police when they are searching for explosives.
It is unlikely that the police will ever commit themselves not to using dogs on Muslim property but as the third anniversary of the July 7 suicide bombings in London is marked tomorrow, the security forces are keen to keep the Islamic community on its side and not do anything which would give unnecessary offence.
The issue of whether using police dogs against Muslims has been raised several times in recent weeks.
Last week, for example, Tayside Police in Scotland apologised after complaints that an advert featuring a German shepherd puppy could be offensive to members of the local Islamic community.
The advert sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee refused to display the police posters.
Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif said: My concern was that its not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards. It was probably a waste of resources going to these communities. They (the police) should have understood. Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if theyd seen it was going to cause upset, they wouldnt have done it.
British Transport Police recently indicated that Muslim train passengers aversions to sniffer dogs and body scanners would not prevent them being subject to random security searches.
What is certain is that any form of unkindness towards mans best friend will not go down well with the British.
John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, told The Sunday Times: 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.
Whether bootees really will distress is a subject that appears not to have been fully researched. Many elderly people in Britain, who often rely on a dog for companionship, routinely dress their pets in little jackets and even ribbons when taking them out for walks on a chilly day. Again, it is not known what the dogs think about such jackets or the colourful ribbons.
Adding to the complication is the question of whether all Muslims consider all dogs to be impure in all circumstances.
Ibrahim Mogra, an imam, told a newspaper: 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.