Meet Britain's latest weapon in the fight to protect the public from terrorists.

Twenty dogs have been hand-picked to join the elite new "USAR" team - Urban Search and Rescue - trained to sniff out survivors trapped under collapsed buildings or wreckage from explosions.

For the first time, rescue dogs will be on stand-by to fly to the scenes of disasters or atrocities anywhere in the UK at short notice. Scroll down for more...
Proud pooch: Gemma, a collie, is one of 20 dogs selected for the two-year training programme

Yesterday this young collie Gemma, one of the first dogs to begin the demanding two-year training process, was put through her paces at the Southern Fire and Rescue Station in Leicester, which is the centre for the nationwide USAR dog scheme.
Decked out in special boots to protect her paws from broken glass or hot metal, and wearing a special rescue harness, she showed off her skills in quickly pinpointing her handler playing the part of an injured survivor trapped in wreckage.
Similarly trained dogs have played a key role in saving lives following the September 11 attacks in America and after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, but until now Britain has lacked the same capability.
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Skill set: Gemma shows off her abilities in pinpointing her handler who plays an injured survivor in wreckage

Most USAR dogs are border collies or springer spaniels, as they have been found to combine a steady temperament and good "nose" with a small enough build to squeeze into tight spots with ease.
The first 20 dogs have begun the lengthy and intensive training under a 430,000 Government initiative.
Four will be stationed in London with the other 16 spread across other fire service areas from Devon in the south to Tyne and Wear in the north.
Fire Minister Parmjit Dhanda said the move was part of sustained efforts to improve capability to deal with major incidents since the September 11 atrocities.
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Protective gear: The dogs are fitted with special boots to protect their paws from hot metal and broken glass

He said: "These dogs are real life-savers as shown by their heroic efforts in all parts of the world.
"Their sniffing skills are crucial to giving the fire service the best possible chance of finding people alive in collapsed buildings. "With this investment, new dog squads can be called up in all parts of the country whenever needed."

Taking a bow wow wow, the pooches putting their best paws forward in the war on terror | the Daily Mail