Archives For Detector Dogs

andy-the-beagle-2-e1526128073677.jpgAfter eight years on the job, Australia’s last mainland beagle sniffer dog is hanging up his lead and heading into well-earned retirement.

Andy the beagle, who single-nosedly detected about 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material over a career which took him across Australia, will return to Sydney to live with his original handler.

Andy, who just celebrated his tenth birthday, spent six years working as a detector dog at Sydney International Airport as well as stints at Coolangatta and the Gold Coast before making a final transfer to Adelaide. Most recently he has been working with the Primary Industries and Regions SA on their fruit fly campaign.

Andy’s career numbers after eight years earned him high praise among handlers:

  • 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material confiscated.
  • 718kg of undeclared fruit and fresh vegetables.
  • 432kg of meat including dried organs.
  • 8.9kg of viable seeds and live plants.
  • 128 travellers issued infringement notices as a result of Andy’s keen nose.

Andy’s Adelaide handlers were sad to see him go, saying they would have put their hands up to take him in if he wasn’t heading back to Sydney.

Andy is the last of the beagle sniffer dogs who were once synonymous with airports around Australia. Instead, the next generation will be the larger and far more eager to please labradors.

Adelaide Airport will temporarily only have one sniffer dog, Ari the labrador, but a replacement for Andy is expected by the end of the year. Only one beagle sniffer dog remains on active duty in Australia — Dawson, who works on Norfolk Island.

Source: The Advertiser, 10 May 2018, article by Mitch Mott.

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In 2010, after spending six years and $19 billion on research to develop better bomb detecting technology, Pentagon officials admitted that dogs’ noses were still superior to their most sophisticated technology. Now scientists say the reason for this might lie simply in the way they sniff.

In her book Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, an assistant of psychology at Barnard College, offers an analogy to show just how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is: while we might be able to tell if a teaspoon of sugar has been added to our coffee, place the same amount in a million gallons of water (roughly the equivalent of two Olympic-sized pools) and a dog would most likely be able to detect it.

This ability to single out and pick up even the faintest of odors is what makes dogs invaluable as bomb detectors. They can detect trace explosives in crowded settings such as airports and public transit areas, as well as odorless chemicals like TNT.

However training pooches to be effective bomb detectors is expensive and time-intensive. While all dogs have a superior sense of smell, not every breed is trainable. Hence the on-going quest to develop an e-nose that can equip bomb detectors with the canal physiology of dogs.

In the latest development in this arena, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory and the US Food and Drug Administration have found that the way a dog sniffs could shed light on how to improve trace detection capabilities.

While we don’t differentiate between breathing and smelling, a dog, with its far more complex nasal system, treats them as two separate functions. According to Matt Staymates, a mechanical engineer at NIST, apart from having a complex olfactory system, the key to what makes dogs so good at sniffing out bombs is, well, in its sniff. This is a two part-process and key to this is what happens when it exhales.

Breathing and smelling are treated as two separate functions in a dog’s nose. When it inhales, the air is channeled into two different paths and when it exhales, the air exits through the sides of its nose so that the exiting air doesn’t interfere with its ability to smell. As counterintuitive as it might sound, when it exhales, the outgoing air jets “entrain—or draw in—vapor-laden air toward the nostrils. During inhalation, the entrained air is pulled into each nostril.”

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Using a 3D model of a Labrador retriever’s (one of the most commonly used breeds in bomb detection) nose to mimic how dogs sniff, and together with the help of schlieren imaging – a technique used for imaging the flow of air around objects – and high-speed video, Staymates and his team were able to confirm the above conjecture.

In their first set of experiments, they found that compared with trace-detection devices that rely on continuous suction, the artificial dog nose was four times better 10 cm (3.9 inches) away from the vapor source and 18 times better at a stand-off distance of 20 cm (7.9 inches).

When they integrated it with a commercially available vapor detector, the switch, which enabled it to sniff like a dog rather than inhale in its standard 10-second intervals, improved its ability to detect odors by a factor of 16 at a stand-off distance of 4 cm (1.6 inches).

This research team is not the first to study how the canine sniffing abilities can be used to develop a better bomb detector. In 1997, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the Dog’s Nose program for this purpose. One of the technologies to emerge from it was a chemical explosives detector called Fido, which was modelled after the canine nasal physiology.

However while there have been various attempts to develop a canine e-nose over the years, the results, while promising, have not yet resulted in a breakthrough for the industry. Reliability as well as the ability to detect things at a distance remain a challenge and while this latest study confirms yet again the dog’s remarkable olfactory prowess, it is “just a piece of the puzzle,” as Staymates notes. “There’s lots more to be learned and to emulate as we work to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and speed of trace-detection technology.” Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST 

The SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) recently deployed two trained detector dog handlers and dogs on foreign soil in Maputo, Mozambique. This forms part of a Customs co-operation agreement between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique.

The capacity-building programme provides for the training of at least eight detector dog handlers and dogs for Mozambique in over a period of 14 weeks followed by a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme for purposes of sustainability.

The deployment of SARS Detector Dog Handlers and dogs trained to interdict endangered species and narcotics in Maputo will promote and strengthen a  cross-border intergovernmental approach in the prevention and detection of smuggling of illicit, illegal goods or substances via ports of entry between Mozambique and South Africa.

The programme is designed to capacitate Mozambique Customs in the establishment of its own canine unit that will further enhance its current non-intrusive scanning enforcement capability at ports of entry and exit. Source and pictures: SARS

SARS DDU2A gruelling four months of training came to an end during May 2015 as 33 Customs officers and their detector dogs graduated from the SARS Detector Dog Training Academy. A graduation ceremony was held in Pretoria. It was the culmination of a training course where officers were, together with their canine charges, were trained in the finer aspects of the detection of illegal substances and goods in vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings.

“The substances that they would be able to detect are explosives, firearms and ammunition in addition to narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, mandrax, crystal meth and ecstasy,” states Hugo Taljaard, Senior Manager for the Detector Dog Unit (DDU). “They will also be able to find rhino horn, ivory, wet or dry abalone, crayfish and lion bones. This also extends to currency, tobacco products, copper wire and cell phones,” he added.

The training began in January 2015 and covered both practical and physical aspects. The following modules were accomplished during the development programme:

  1. Bonding and socialisation phase with the dog.
  2. Imprinting of substances.
  3. Paramilitary Drill – Salute and Compliment.
  4. Practical search and detect training on vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings
  5. Physical training – dog and handling – Theoretical training on identification and handling of narcotics and endangered species; Dog conditioning process; Basic animal behavior; and General dog care.
  6. Change of environment training at land ports of entry.
  7. Formal assessment.

After this training, detector dog units will be established in Mpumalanga (Lebombo Detector Dog Unit), Northern Cape (Nakop Detector Dog Unit), and Northern Cape (Vioolsdrif Detector Dog Unit) to support SARS’ strategic objective to increase customs compliance at ports of entry.

Currently, all SARS DDU recruitment is sourced from within the organisation.

Visit the Servamus website (a community-based safety and security website and magazine) for an article published on Customs Detector Dog Unit – “Sniffing out trouble at SA ports” (May 2015 Edition). Source: SARS and Servamus.co.za

Related articles

Biggest bust of Rhino Horn at a South African airportSARS Customs officers at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) last week intercepted over 41kg of rhino horns – with a total value of over R4.5 million – transiting through the airport. This is the biggest ever seizure of rhino horn by the SARS Customs team at OR Tambo International, Johannesburg.

As a result of profiling two foreign nationals travelling from Maputo to Vietnam via Johannesburg,  their baggage was intercepted during a stop-over at ORTIA. A Customs detector dog “Mimmo” reacted positively to two bags. The tags found on the bags also did not correspond to the tags presented to Customs officials during the initial questioning of the passengers. This is a practice commonly found with narcotics smuggling syndicates.

The bags had a strong garlic and glue smell, (a tactic to distract detector dogs). Further to the plastic wrapped horns, the zips of the bags were also glued in an effort to keep the odour intact and to make the inspection difficult. Subsequent physical inspection of the bags by Customs officials revealed the rhino horn allegedly being smuggled by the two travellers. Source: SARS

Picture1Due to overwhelming interest in the SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit, a dedicated page is now included – see the Detector Dog ‘tab’ at the top of this webpage for a direct link, or click here!

Detector Dog Rajax demonstrates his cash-sniffing abilities during training at a NZ Customs facility

Detector Dog Rajax demonstrates his cash-sniffing abilities during training at a NZ Customs facility

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner today welcomed a new partnership between New Zealand, Hong Kong and Chinese Customs to develop cash detector dog capabilities in the region.

Officials from Hong Kong Customs and the General Administration of China Customs’ Anti-Smuggling Bureau have been in Auckland to learn how drug dogs are trained to detect cash, so they can progress similar programmes in their own Customs administrations.

“It’s fantastic we’re able to assist Hong Kong and China to build this special capability, as detecting undeclared or hidden cash is an increasing priority for many Customs authorities as evidence shows following the money trail can lead to cracking serious organised crime such as drug smuggling.

“Having Hong Kong and China Customs detector dogs sniff both drugs and cash will disrupt drug smuggling and money laundering by transnational syndicates, with flow-on benefits for us in New Zealand,” Ms Wagner says

New Zealand shares formal agreements and a close customs-customs operational relationships with both Hong Kong and China, with the agencies working together to target the illicit drug trade through cross-border efforts.

Officials spent a week getting an overview from Customs’ Source: NZ Government (contributed by M Reddy)

policedogPolice dogs serve many purposes for law enforcement agencies. Often times they are used for their superior sense of smell, but they are also used to apprehend suspects. As such, these animals face many risks. One, though, is not necessarily the first that comes to mind, and that is being left to overheat in police cruisers. A company called Blueforce Development aims to fix this problem with a sensor that alerts police when a K-9’s temperature reaches dangerous levels.

According to the Pennsylvania K9 Assistance Foundation, an equal number of K-9’s die in heat-related situations as gunshots when on duty. Blueforce Development believes that its K9 Life Safety Bundle can prevent these deaths from occurring.

The system includes a sensor that is surgically implanted in the dog that sends data on the animal’s internal body temperature to a small receiver attached to the animal’s protective gear. If the dog’s temperature falls below or exceeds a value set by the dog’s handler, the data is transmitted using any in-car Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G or LTE connection inside the squad car to Blueforce’s cloud servers. From there, a notification is sent to the iOS or Android device of anyone subscribed via Blueforce’s system to the dog in question. These notifications take the form of audible tones, vibrations, text messages, or emails.

Pricing information was not made available as of this writing, which isn’t that surprising given that the system isn’t being marketed at the general public, but rather towards law enforcement agencies. The company did announce that the package will include five sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, and volatile organic compounds. Source: Blueforce Development

SARS Customs North West Detector Dog Unit handlers. [SARS]

SARS Customs North West Detector Dog Unit handlers. [SARS]

Fifty two dogs and handlers were trained and deployed in the first phase of the SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit’s (DDU) capacity building programme. Trainees were for units from Limpopo, North West and Mpumulanga, Or Tambo International Airport and Durban. “This figure includes new dog handlers, replacement of old or sick dogs and refresher training of dogs not up to the required working standard, explained Hugo Taljaard, the senior manager of Custom’s Detector Dog Unit.

There are now 90 regionally based detector dogs and handlers deployed in the country. Most dogs are dual trained to detect different substances and /or goods. They have the capacity to detect the following substances/goods hidden in vehicles, vessels, aircraft, cargo, containers, mail, rail, luggage and buildings:

  • Explosives, firearms and ammunition
  • Narcotics (Mandrax, heroin, crystal meth, cocaine, cannabis and Ecstasy)
  • Endangered species (Rhino horn, ivory, wet / dry abalone, crayfish and lion bones)
  • Currency
  • DVDs
  • Copper wire
  • Tobacco products
  • Cell phones.

At the end of phase 1, which ran from April 2013 to January 2014, a ceremony was held in Zeerust to hand out certificates to the members of the newly-formed North West Detector Dog Unit.

“The commitment, passion and drive of the trainees must be acknowledged as this contributed to the successful training of the new handlers and dogs. The teams performed extremely well, achieving pass rates ranging from between 92% to 99.80% and this could only be achieved with positive team work and the drive to go the extra mile and make a difference. The teams proved their commitment in playing an impactful role in the prevention of smuggling,” Hugo said.

The cooperation between different government agencies also played a major role in the successful training and operational deployment of the Customs dogs and handlers during Phase 1 and will continue during Phase 2 and 3, he added.

Phase 2 of the programme is planned to get underway on 7 April 2014 with the establishment of three new units – at Port Elizabeth, Ladybrand and Ermelo.

The DDU has been a major success story for SARS in recent years, providing expert training to several Customs and Border agencies in the region. The topic has also invoked significant interest amongst readers and followers of this blog. It needs to be stressed, however, that the recruitment and deployment of dog trainers in SARS is currently all achieved through training and up-skilling of officers within the organisation. No external recruitment drives have occurred. The nature and extent of Customs Modernisation places SARS in the fortunate position of being able to redeploy staff to specialised roles such as the DDU.

Source: SARS

web_innovationWhile contemplating next year’s challenges and opportunities, I suppose it’s not a bad time to reflect on the WCO‘s theme for Customs Inc. in 2013. The Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, is pleased to announce that 2013 will be dedicated to promoting innovation under the slogan “Innovation for Customs progress”. He believes that WCO Members and their partners will have the opportunity to promote innovative ideas and practices that they have implemented, new partnerships that they have developed, as well as creative solutions and technologies that they have adopted. Customs and its stakeholders are urged to be innovative and creative in taking forward the innovation theme in all its facets throughout 2013.

The Year of innovation will be launched on International Customs Day, celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

Considering the age of the WCO (CCC), I thought the pictures below might conjure up some yesteryear profiles of male and female customs officers. These come from a book A Ladybird ‘Easy-Reading’ Book – ‘People at Work’ – The CUSTOMS OFFICER, which was around when I was a youngster in primary school. Needless to say, the content is perhaps meaningless where the period ‘gate-keeper’ approach to customs control has since been superseded by ‘automated risk management’, i.e. where a computer tells a customs officer what to search for, or what is suspicious or worthwhile expending energy on. Passenger processing has likewise seen a revolution in technology aids and controlled procedures. In many places it is the biometric reader which ‘facilitates’ expedited passenger/traveller processing. While verbal interrogation is still used it is merely a ‘level’ in the ‘layered’ approach in the modern customs risk management process. X-ray body scanners and drug-loo’s complete the customs officer’s enforcement toolkit. Yet, it still takes the ingenuity of a customs officer (and many instances his detector dog) to raise the ‘portcullis’ on crime.

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On a subject close to my heart. The National Detector Dog Unit of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is getting a boost with more than 70 new dogs and handlers being trained to make up a number of new dog units around the country. Apart from filling a couple of current vacancies, the new recruits will form part of Detector Dog Units in Port Elizabeth, Zeerust, Mahamba, Vioolsdrift, Nakop, Maseru Bridge and an expanded Mpumalanga unit. All the additional units are expected to become operational in the first quarter of 2013.

“By next year, most of the major land, sea and air ports should have their own detector dog units (DDU),” said the senior manager of the DDU, Hugo Taljaard. “The ultimate aim is to have dog units at every port, with a total of 500 new handlers and dogs needed. However, this is a long-term (four-year) project, aimed at enhancing our non-intrusive capabilities at ports of entry to prevent cross-border smuggling.”

The SARS Detector Dog Unit has also been asked recently to assist with training in Namibia and Angola, following the assistance we gave the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) to establish a Detector Dog capability. The DDU continues to see major successes countrywide, with a recent copper bust in the news last weekend.

Detector dog Umaga, an 18-month old German Shepherd, sniffed out 84kg of copper at the Beit Bridge border post during his first operation. Umaga recently completed his training as a copper sniffer dog. The copper was concealed in luggage in a trailer entering South Africa. Umaga is the second sniffer dog to be trained to sniff out copper. Milo, a five-year-old Labrador, has also already nosed out his first contraband copper. There has been an increase in the smuggling of copper wire across the border into South Africa, since copper has a much higher value here than in the other member states of the Southern African Development Community. The increase has meant that Customs has had to beef up its ability to detect contraband copper. The wire is usually concealed in compartments under trucks.

The Detector Dog Unit was the first in the world to train “dual application dogs”, Hugo explained. So instead of being trained or “imprinted” to detect only one scent, they are able to detect a combination of scents, e.g. narcotics and currency, tobacco and endangered species. Both Milo and Umaga are dual dogs and they can detect narcotics/tobacco and copper wire. The explosives detector dogs are the only dogs not dual trained due to the safety risk.

The dogs are an integral part of our Customs workforce and are seen as officers in their own right. They are therefore looked after with the utmost care and attention and are even provided with special reflector jackets, cooler jackets for the heat and dog shoes made to protect their feet from hot surfaces. Source: SARS Communications Division

I have added a new link which will be of interest to Customs Border Control officers and cargo handlers in the airfreight industry. Read all about the new screening technology recently installed at Schiphol Airporthttp://www.diag-nose.com/rascargo.html. You will also find interesting posts in regard to the use of detector dogs in the combatting narcotics and explosives.