IN A sad reflection of modern society, Sniffer Dogs are being drafted in by anxious parents to check if their children are using drugs.
Detect International K9 Support Services takes trained dogs to homes, schools and businesses to smell out illegal substances. Since the company started in September last year, it has carried out searches at seven private homes in Cambridgeshire.
Robert Taylor, UK training and operations manager, said most of their home searches were carried out in children's bedrooms.
He said: ‘We get a lot of requests from parents, sometimes after we've carried out a search of their child's school, who want to find out if there are any drugs in their bedroom.’
The firm, which has bases in Essex and Lancashire, has carried out a total of 211 home searches so far in Britain and demand for the dogs’ service is growing.
The business has also provided specialist dog search teams to 43 schools and colleges in different counties throughout the UK.
Mr Taylor said the first search of a school is free of charge and if the school decides it wants more drugs sweeps in the future, it can sign up for a 12-month contract. Individual school searches cost from £150, while home searches cost from £50.
The firm has carried out a number of searches in the Greater Manchester area, using various teams of dogs.
Mr Taylor pointed out that the school searches provided a highly visible deterrent to pupils thinking of bringing drugs with them to the classroom or playground. ‘If there are drugs there, we will find them. We always ask for the police to be in attendance where possible,’ he said.
He said two dogs were taken into schools during beach search - a Labrador, which acts as a ‘passive dog’ and is trained to search people, and an English Springer Spaniel, which is a ‘proactive dog’ and searches classrooms, lockers and the school grounds.
The passive dog is kept on a lead while the proactive dog is allowed off its lead, although it stays with its handler.
Mr Taylor made it clear that the handler would not use a dog to search anyone who is afraid of the animal. And the canines do not act in an intimidating way - if drugs are detected the dog will sit still and stare.
Mr Taylor isn’t on an anti-drugs crusade, however and is well aware of the limitations of his company’s powers and scope. ‘We know we are not going to stop kids taking drugs,’ he said.
‘Our aim is to reduce the flow of drugs into the school environment. Children are there to learn, not to take drugs.’