The South African Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) was established on the 1st March 2007 with the appointment of detector dog handlers and trainers. The unit has steadily contributed to increased Customs compliance in and around ports of entries and the capacity increased to cover all major ports of entries in South Africa.
The well-trained dogs and handlers perform search and detect operations to prevent smuggling of narcotics, explosives, firearms, ammunition, endangered species, currency, dvd’s, copper wire, cigarettes and lion bones hidden in vehicles, trucks, trailers, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail and luggage.
DDU Handler attributes
All DDU applicants are assessed to determine suitability for training as a dedicated and specialised detector dog handler. The following pre-assessment is conducted:
- Medical assessment.
- Physical Fitness Test.
- Dog simulation test.
- Entry Level Test.
Suitable dogs are procured from reputable breeders and providers in SA and dogs have to meet the set criteria for training as a detector dog:
- Between the ages 1 – 3 years.
- Good agility and endurance.
- High focus.
- High play drive.
- Healthy – Hips and Elbows are screened by X-Ray.
- Good over-all condition.
Candidate handlers are issued with untrained dogs where after the practical training of 3 months commence. The training consists of the following modules:
- Socialising and bonding phase.
- Physical training.
- Imprinting of different scents.
- Practical scent detection training.
- Theoretical class room training.
- Para-Military drill with and without the detector dog.
Assessment and certification.
Detector dogs are dual trained to maximise productivity and to detect:
- Narcotics (mandrax, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, MDMA ecstasy, crystal meth) and cigarettes or copper wire or currency or dvd’s.
- Endangered species (rhino horn, ivory, lobster, wet / dry abalone, lion bones) and cigarettes or copper wire or currency or dvd’s.
- Commercial and military explosives, ammunition and firearms.
Authentic training samples are imprinted and detected during the training intervention. The same authentic samples are used to sustain a high working standard of detector dog work once certified as an operational detector dog.
Sustainability of a high working standard is of utmost importance and the following programme is follow training during regional operational deployment:
- Weekly dog practice by handler.
- Reinforcement on scent detection during operations.
- Monthly combined detector dog practice under supervision of the team commander.
- Quarterly assessments by qualified national assessors.
- Refresher / remedial training.
Yearly working certification.
Prioritisation of high standard in the general care of our dogs contributes to high productivity and detection rate at ports of entries. Dogs are groomed on a daily basis and veterinarian support is available on a 24/7 basis.
There are 9 Dog Units in SA currently:
- Limpopo DDU
- Western Cape DDU
- Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport DDU
- Mpumalanga Ermelo DDU
- Mpumalanga White River DDU
- Free State Ladybrand DDU
- KwaZulu-Natal, Durban DDU
- Eastern Cape PE DDU
- North West DDU
To follow shortly:
- Northern Cape DDU
- Mpumalanga Lebombo DDU
- Trained the first deaf person, Kim Groep, as a detector dog handler with detector dog “Sky” in the detection of Endangered Species.
- Introduction of new scents such as copper wire and lion bones.
- High success rate in the detection and prevention of smuggling at port of entries.
- Establishment of new detector dog units in SA (expansion capabilities).
- DDU Trainers capacity.
- Assessment and sustainability capability.
- Dual detector dog training.
- Use of authentic samples for imprinting and refresher training.
- Rendered practical assistance to the Namibian Revenue Authority and Mauritian Revenue Authority. Hosted the Southern African DDU conference (2013) which was attended by most SADC countries.
For more information visit www.sars.gov.za
Please Note that currently SARS recruitment for its DDU is ‘internal’ within SARS. Interested parties are however requested to consult that SARS website – careers column – from time to time, should external opportunities become available.