DRUG DEALERS have made death threats against a prison sniffer dog because he is too effective at his job. The dog - which is not being named to protect it from possible attack - has been remarkably effective at identifying people trying to smuggle drugs into Manchester prison.
In her latest report on the jail, Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers raised concerns that the dog was "not operating in line with others at the prison".
Chiefs reacted by taking the dog out of action to test his drug-sniffing skills, and discovered he was 100% accurate. He has now been re-instated. "People have made tangible threats to kill the dog because he is so successful," said a Prison Service spokeswoman.
The sniffer dogs monitor people coming into the prison and sit down alongside someone they believe is carrying an illegal substance. He was perceived to be indicating a far higher rate than the other dogs and was taken out of commission for a few days to be re-tested. "He was found to be 100% accurate on every test."
There are six drug dogs at Manchester - formerly known as Strangeways - namely one Collie, two spaniels and three labradors. The spokeswoman declined to identify the dog involved.
"Drugs in prison are such big business that people are prepared to make threats against a poor, defenceless dog," she added. "We are pleased he is leading the fight against drugs importation into Manchester prison."
The dog was believed to have contributed to a large fall in the number of positive results in mandatory drug tests at the 1,200 inmate jail. The positive rate was 30% in 2003-4 but has fallen to just 13% in tests since April.
Anyone suspected of smuggling drugs into prison are turned away if they refuse to be searched or they are offered a closed visit - conducted through glass - at weekends. Ms Owers recommended that closed visits should not be offered solely on the results of the drug dogs.
But the Prison Service spokeswoman said they would not be changing their policy, adding: "Those who have decline to be searched still have the option of closed visits."