The daily life of a passive drug dog

In prisons across the UK, the battle to stop drugs and illicit items getting inside is ever-present and at HMP Ashfield, a category C male sex offenders prison managed by Serco, it’s no different.

One of the most reliable tools in detecting and catching drugs being smuggled into HMP Ashfield is chocolate lab and passive drug dog, Molly and her handler, Sam.

We interviewed Sam (and Molly!) to find out what the daily life and duties are for a drug dog handler.

Morning:

Sam: We’re up between 5-6 am every day including days off (no rest for the wicked, dogs don't feed or walk themselves, grooming time too so her coat and health is checked).

Molly: Let out for wees etc, then fed and followed by a nice car journey (traffic permitting…) whilst we prepare for our day.

Once we arrive at Ashfield, my handler has to collect her keys and radio for our safety and security so we can move around the establishment and start the day with a staff search.

Sam: Molly either does a patrol or gets put in her kennel whilst we find out the day’s schedule. Each day is different with instruction from our managers given if certain things need doing and specific being searched.

Molly: We often do patrols of several areas but different times of the day so we don't get a routine, we could be searching inmates off the house blocks or searching inmates up to education, we may even be staff searching again!

Midday:

Sam: During the day, we also give Molly a chance of a find then we can reward her its important too that I make sure Molly is still finding substances having a reward and play.

On a visits day Friday – Sunday, we will screen visitors in, to deter and detect illicit items namely controlled substances, then Molly can retire to her kennel for a nice nap, or we may need go to do another perimeter check depending on the day.

During our day things can change at a drop of a hat, so we must be adaptable.

Evening:

Sam: At the end of day, I collect Molly and we can relax on our car journey home.

Once we get home, Molly is fed and then about an hour or so later have a walk, along with another groom if needed…

Routine treatment:

Sam: Since Molly is a working dog, her health and wellbeing are very important, so we must make sure she gets her jabs, wormers and any other treatment needed.

Continuation training and relicensing:

Sam: Molly and I need to go for continuation training and a licence every year, this is to make sure we meet all standards and we are up to doing the job we do.

During our relicense, we must make sure Molly can detect all substances required for our licence and make I am handling Molly correctly.

If we do not meet with the standards then we can be failed this means that either Sam hasn't detected what she needs to or handler error, either way you may get reassessed after more training or an instant fail so your dog will no longer be in service and you will need another.

if the handler is at fault, then it could mean that the handler is marked as failed and the dog is reteamed to another handler.

It’s certainly a lot of pressure, but also a powerful reminder for Molly and me to always be top of our game!