Sniffer dogs

woman in uniform with a dog inspecting a bag

Dog handler from Manchester airport. Photograph courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

Sniffer dogs have been helping to safeguard our ports and airports for many years. Each dog works with a handler from UK Border Force to detect hidden objects including drugs, weapons and other smuggled goods.

One dog handler describes how her sniffer dog helped to make an important discovery on a ship from South America:

"It is routine to work a dog on ships that dock in Liverpool, especially if the ships are from countries that are known for the growing and manufacture of drugs. So it was part of an average day, that I found myself and my drug detector dog Otto (a German short haired pointer) on a ship carrying copper and containers from South America.

As part of the routine, we always start searching the crew accommodation first. It was whilst one of the Customs anti smuggling rummagers was searching a bathroom ceiling, that some packages of cocaine were found in a purpose made waistcoat with many pockets.

As it was only a small amount, the thought was that there must be a larger amount somewhere on board the ship. Because ships are so big, detector dogs become a valuable asset, as a dog can cover a much bigger area in a short space of time.

After a few hours, nothing was found, but some of the crew were watching our every move. The copper and some of the containers were to be discharged at Liverpool, so it was decided to check all the containers.

In one particular container, which had large cardboard boxes, stacked about one metre high, Otto stopped dead, about half way down the container and started sniffing loudly and swaying from side to side in one small area. He then started to look at me and then look down at the boxes, he was really wagging his tail. He wouldn't come away from that spot, and he started sneezing, so I climbed in the container with a torch to have a closer look. In between some of the boxes, tightly wedged in, I could see a large plastic bag with a knot in it.

The bag contained packages of cocaine of a very high purity, weighing 65 kilogrammes. After further investigation several arrests were made, and those responsible are serving lengthy prison sentences.

Why did Otto sneeze so much? He doesn't normally do that. In between each layer of the brown tape sprinkled on to the sticky side, was a very large amount of black pepper, to try and put detector dogs off the scent. Luckily for me it would take a lot more than pepper to put Otto off!"