Due to their ability to detect explosives and illegal drugs, specially trained dogs provide essential services to a range of security and law enforcement agencies. Moreover, canines could not care less about a person's race or religion, thus limiting claims of bias against the organizations that employ them.
But what if a religious group objects to the use of dogs on the grounds that they are unclean animals? Must the whole of society be placed at risk in deference to the customs of a few? The answers should be obvious, but the questions are all too real in Britain:
Police sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers — after complaints that it is against the suspects' religion.
A report for the Transport Department has raised the prospect that the animals should only touch passengers' luggage because it is considered "more acceptable."
Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said even dogs touching baggage would be an issue for a Muslim preparing to pray.
The report is based on tests of various security measures put in place after the 2005 London bombings. Incidentally, Muslims also balked at body scanning technology during the trials. "Sometimes I wear clothing which is not so tight," one woman noted. "It will be shown on [the monitor] and somebody is looking at it. It defeats the whole purpose of me covering up."
The British Transport Police have wisely rejected these demands and pledged to continue using dogs in security checks. "The legislation applies to everyone. It's not a case for exemptions," an agency spokesman said. "Officers will be sensitive where appropriate but obviously there are practical implications."
These "practical implications" are rarely of concern to Islamists, who fight frequent battles against man's best friend. Among the recent lowlights: Muslim taxi drivers declining to carry passengers with seeing-eye dogs and a Minnesota student threatening to kill his classmate's medical assistance dog.
The above stories have two aspects in common: the use of animals to protect or improve people's lives, and attempts by a minority to grossly violate the rights of others. While every dog has its day, we must ensure that such brazen infringements never have theirs.