1. HM Revenue & Custom (HMRC) Detection dogs were first introduced 30 years ago in 1978, and have been one of the most successful tools in protecting society from the dangers of illegal drugs reaching the general public.
2. The first dogs were used to find cannabis, but they are now also trained to find Heroin, Cocaine, Ecstasy and Amphetamine, plus cash, products of animal origin (e.g. dairy, meat and fish) and tobacco.
3. The dogs sometimes identify other unusual things, which have included: cs spray, caviar, sea horses, scorpions, banned Chinese medicine, alligator heads, and bush meat (e.g. monkey meat). They have also detected people trying to enter the country illegally.
4. Last year (06/07) HMRC’s detection dogs seized a total of:
* £10,724,945 in cash (in various currencies)
* 9,390,136 cigarettes
* 3,568 kg of hand rolling tobacco
* 40.6 tonnes of products of animal origin (dairy, meat & fish)
* 1,434 kg of class A drugs
5. They are trained by the Metropolitan Police at their training school in Kent. It takes about eight weeks to train a dog and handler on a course, and up to a further five weeks at the place where they will be working.
6. There are nine dog units and approximately 65 dogs across the UK, working in ports, airports, train stations and sometimes helping the police to search private addresses.
7. The dogs enjoy their work. They search for pleasure, knowing they will be rewarded with play or a titbit if they find a scent. They dogs never have physical contact with drugs, and contrary to popular myth are not addicted to the substances they find.
8. The dogs live in kennels where they work. Their handlers spend about two hours a day grooming, feeding and exercising them.
9. Gun dog breeds are ideal as they have a natural instinct to hunt and retrieve, which is adapted to search for particular smells. The most common breeds are: English Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Labradors and German Short Haired Pointers.
10. They retire at around eight years old and usually go to live with their handler. If this is not possible, they always go to a good home where they are well looked after.