As surprising as it may sound, dogs occasionally have much more important roles to carry out than being cute to look at and being furry friends.
One such role is working alongside police at airport border control to detect and prevent illegal substances from being brought into the country.
Which is why Manchester airport spent a massive £1.25 million on sniffer dogs. Yes, that’s right, £1.25 million!
Obviously, the dogs themselves weren’t this expensive. The costs contributed to new kennels and the overall costs of the dog unit, which consisted of a team of trained Border Force dog handlers, a team leader and a Higher Officer.
Makes sense, right. Sure, it might be edging slightly on the expensive side (slightly) but can you put a price on preventing crime? As long as the doggos are doing their jobs and stopping criminals in their tracks, who’s to complain.
But that’s where things get slightly complicated. Because it turns out, over a seven month period, the dogs failed to detect any class A drugs. At all. Oops.
A report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:
Although the dogs were making detections, they were not delivering effectively against ‘Control Strategy’ priorities.
Heroin and cocaine were assessed as ‘very high’ priority within both air passengers and freight.
Yet, according to the data provided by Border Force, the dogs had made no Class A drugs detections in the period November 2014 to June 2015.
We can’t be too harsh on them though; like the report says, they were detecting some items – just maybe not the things they necessarily needed to find as a priority!
So what did they sniff out, you’re probably asking. Well, this is when it gets even more awkward because it turns out the puppers mostly found sausages and cheese.
The report stated:
When deployed, the POAO dog made multiple accurate detections, but most were of small amounts of cheese or sausages, wrongly brought back by returning British holidaymakers and posing minimal risk to UK public health.
Can you imagine being their handler. Month in, month out, expecting to take down drug criminals and thinking ‘yes, this is it!’ every time your dog sniffs someone suspicious out. Only to be disappointed every time when they find a pack of sausages.
It wasn’t looking good for the doggos. To give them credit though, they did detect a range of illicit goods including ‘illegal and duty or tax payable goods’.
They helped to seize more than 46,000 cigarettes, 60kg of tobacco and £28,000 cash. So that, along with the 181kg of illegal meat, proves that they weren’t just rolling around on their tummies all day waiting to be tickled.
Obviously, this does lead us to question whether the dogs are being used to the best effect and whether they might be better off in another role.
The report makes reference to this, stating:
A senior manager agreed that there was a lack of innovation in the use of the dogs, and told us that a new management structure was being put into place to take a fresh look at their deployment.
Let me put my dog management hat on because I have some ideas for airport dog implementation:
1. Support dogs. We all know someone who gets nervous before flying – why not have a safe space within the airport for anxious people to sit with the dogs? Nerves are calmed and dog tummies are tickles. Win-win!
2. Child passenger entertainment dogs. We’ve all been there, sitting in the terminal waiting for our gate to be called, when suddenly chaos ensues and children are screaming and running around everywhere. Employ the dogs to play with the children.
3. Herding dogs. You know when you’ve passed the boarding gate and you’re being herded onto a cramped bus to get to your plane – replace the buses with dogs. It would save on fuel costs and everyone would be much happier.
This airport dog manager lark is a breeze.
Anyway, I think we can all agree that the puppers did their best and should continue to be their absolute best doggo selves.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).