for the State Veterinary Service
News from the British Veterinary Association this month, in their monthly 'Off the Record', publication, included the details of a new initiative being piloted by HM Customs and Excise at Heathrow airport.
Samos, a black Labrador, and her brother, have been chosen to carry out some important work for DEFRA. They are now employed as the UK's first 'detector dogs', trained not to sniff out drugs but concealed meat and animal products, such as 'bush meat' (from endangered species) and dried fish.
Before starting work, the dogs underwent a six-week Metropolitan Police training course in Keston, Kent.
They then spent a further six weeks at Heathrow with experienced HM Customs and Excise staff. DEFRA began piloting the use of these 'meat detector' dogs last September, as part of an action plan to help combat illegal imports of prohibited products.
The dogs are currently working on the baggage carousels, in halls and cargo sheds. The dogs each work with their own full-time handlers, who were chosen from the SVS staff. The cost of preparing each team of dog and handler is £30,000. During the six-month assessment of the pilot scheme, DEFRA will be reviewing the effectiveness of these special partnerships in action.
It is hoped that in time, Samos and her brother will be working with the nine dogs already based at Heathrow.
The dogs are part of the Government's action plan which followed the outbreak of FMD in 2001; however, they will be unaware of this fact and must be surely enjoying a favourite pastime of Labradors everywhere that is, sniffing interesting smells!