The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has funded two black Labradors, called Lucky and Flo, who can sniff out optical discs at customs points and other locations.

The MPAA worked with its UK counterpart, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) to train the animals.

While dogs have long been used to detect illicit drugs, the new mission aims to attack movie piracy, which FACT estimates at a value of £278 million in the UK in 2005.

The dogs are 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 Corp. facility at Stansted Airport, near London. The dogs' sense of smell is up to 10,000 times more sensitive than humans and can smell a disc through several layers of wrapping.

Use of the dogs slashes 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 due to increased enforcement by HM Revenue and Customs, Leviten said. However, prices for equipment to create illegal discs have fallen, meaning more operations are within in 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 on how the dogs will be incorporated into future enforcement efforts, Leviten said.