THE Prison Service is standing down 16 so-called 'attack' dogs after they were deployed just twice in the past five years.
Officially labelled "conflict resolution" dogs, they were brought into Mountjoy Prison on one occasion to bark at the inmates in an attempt to frighten them during a disturbance at the Dublin jail.
The tactic failed, leaving staff to quell the trouble.
Though deployed twice since 2009, the German Shepard dogs have never been in contact with prisoners during jail riots.
The dogs are all highly trained and have been based mainly in Dublin jails, including Mountjoy and Wheatfield, but some have also been situated at the Midlands prison in Portlaoise.
The Prison Service confirmed last night that following an analysis of the use of the conflict resolution dogs and the potential use of that resource, it had been decided to "stand down" the animals immediately.
Prison officials said that as a result of the review the focus was now being placed by the authorities on recruiting more "active" dogs, which are used in patrols and searches for drugs and other contraband smuggled into the jails.
A third type of dogs, known as "passives", are deployed for the searching of personnel or items being brought into the prisons.
Last year, a major problem arose with some of the passive dogs resulting in operational lapses during searches and this prompted a fresh assessment of the team.
Following the assessment, nine of the 20 dogs were retrained and put back into service while others were found new homes.
Inquiries are currently under way to find new employment for the redundant 'attack' dogs.
"These are all highly trained for a particular task but they are no longer deemed to be of use in the prisons in the future," a source said.
"An appropriate organisation will now be identified to house them elsewhere," he added.