The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is putting some bite behind its bark in its fight against illegally copied CDs and DVDs.
The movie industry group has funded the eight-month training of two black Labradors, called Lucky and Flo, who can now sniff out optical discs at customs points and other locations. The MPAA worked with its UK counterpart, Fact (the Federation Against Copyright Theft).
While dogs have long been used to detect illicit drugs, the mission aims to slash away at the profits from movie piracy, which Fact estimates were £278m in the UK last year.
The dogs have been trained to detect the smell of chemicals used in the manufacture of optical discs, said Eddy Leviten, head of communications for Fact.
Last week, Lucky and Flo sniffed packages at the FedEx facility at Stansted Airport. A dog's sense of smell is up to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human's; it can smell a disc through several layers of wrapping.
Use of the dogs severely reduces the time needed to isolate suspicious packages, Leviten said.
But the dogs can't distinguish between pirated discs and genuine ones. Investigators examine packages to try to determine which should be opened for inspection.
The number of pirated discs imported into the UK has fallen dramatically in the past 18 months as a result of increased enforcement by HM Revenue and Customs, Leviten said. However, prices for equipment to create illegal discs have fallen, which means there are more operations within the UK, Leviten said.
The dogs could also be used for warehouse inspections undertaken by Fact, which employs piracy investigators throughout the UK.
Fact and the MPAA are working with law enforcement and customs officials to determine how the dogs will be incorporated into future enforcement efforts.