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Dogs against drugs at Scatsta airport

Published: 19 Jun 2017

Scatsta Airport, managed and operated by Serco, was recently visited by Dogs Against Drugs. Four specialist dogs and their handlers went through a series of exercises to help train the dogs and demonstrate their prowess at finding hidden drugs.

For the first exercise, Axel, a golden Labrador who is ‘Drugs sent’ and ‘Area Search’ trained was introduced to four Serco employees who each had a tube at their feet.  Three of these were empty, but one contained drugs.  Axel, who was searching people for the first time, was taken down the line… he sniffed each container, and then successfully identified the tube with the drugs and was rewarded by his handler with a ball – his favourite toy! 

Axel then carried out two more searches for drugs that had been hidden in a staff room and in an office and of course the Labrador found all the hidden contraband.  Axel is currently undergoing training for searching for drugs on a person; on completion he can receive his licence for this element of his training.

Next came Blade, an experienced Labrador who was introduced to four more Serco employees, who were sitting in the main terminal building in two rows facing one another. One of them had drugs hidden in their sock, but it didn’t take Blade long to find them!  He sniffed his way along the line of people and once he reached the suspect, he sat down in front of her, positively identifying the drugs straight away.

For his second training exercise Blade waited at the side of the flight gate, while the ‘suspect’ followed a group of inbound passengers off a flight into the terminal building. Blade waited, sniffing each and every passenger as they walked past him and immediately detected the drugs and followed the ‘suspect’, identifying her to the handler.

John Thorne, Serco’s Contract Director at Scatsta airport, said: “This was a fascinating and useful visit that demonstrated just how good these dogs are at detecting drugs.  I don’t think anyone carrying drugs would get past them.    Everyone involved in the exercises really enjoyed themselves and we loved the dogs!

Dogs Against Drugs has a continuous training programme.  Puppies start training at around 10 months, and it lasts two years until the dogs are fully trained. Dogs generally work until the age of nine or ten before they retire and as they near the end of their working days, the handlers reduce their workload and increase it for the second most experienced dog in the team.  Each team has dogs at different ages and training levels to ensure they always have an experienced dog ready for service.