THE OIL industry is helping Shetland charity Dogs Against Drugs add a second sniffer dog and handler to its ranks to help tackle the level of illegal substances smuggled into the isles.
Multinational firm Petrofac, who are building the £500 million new gas plant at Sullom Voe, have offered to fund the bulk of the £60,000 annual cost of a new dog and handler.
Two eight month old puppies from a specialist breeder in the Scottish Borders are currently being prepared for their initial assessment as sniffer dogs, and the charity is advertising for a second handler to join special constable Michael Coutts next month.
For the past eight years Mr Coutts and his two dogs Buzz and Nico have been helping local police try to stem the tide of drugs imported into the islands, which are targeted by mainland heroin dealers because of the high prices they can earn in Shetland.
Recent months have seen the police seize thousands of pounds of heroin from “mules” recruited from the Merseyside area, and the dogs have helped to sniff out more drugs being sent in by post.
However Mr Coutts is one man working a 40 hour week who finds it hard to meet the demand on his time, much of which is spent educating around 1,000 school pupils every year about the dangers of getting involved in the drug trade.
“We could have done with this handler years ago,” he said, but the cost of a dog and handler plus training and transport have proved excessive for an organisation dependent on government and voluntary donations.
The arrival of 800 construction workers to build the new gas plant for French oil giant Total could increase the amount of drugs in Shetland, despite the industry’s strict anti-drugs policy.
Dogs Against Drugs chairman Ian Davidge said they approached Petrofac, who were enthusiastic about coming on board with a three year contract to support the charity.
As part of the deal the dog will pay a certain number of visits to the construction site, but its main work will be at Shetland’s main points of entry – the ferry and airport terminals.
“This is going to really open up a lot more areas and work that we can’t do because Michael has been so busy with education work,” Mr Davidge said.
“So this will put the dog back to where we have always wanted it on the pier and at the Post Office and being available for searching houses for the police. It’s going to make it a lot more proactive.”
Chief inspector David Bushell, Shetland’s area commander, described the funding as excellent news for the islands.
“Shetland has a higher level of drug activity than other areas of Northern Constabulary and the drugs dogs are used constantly to help us tackle this. We have had recent success in preventing major supplies of drugs coming to the islands and the drugs dogs are often centre of our policing operations to find drugs,” he said.
Sniffer dogs Nico (left) and Buzz – Photo: Courtesy of Dogs against Drugs
Become a supporter of Shetland News
Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.
Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.
Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has over 440 supporters who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.
Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -
- Bring you the headlines as they happen;
- Stay editorially independent;
- Give a voice to the community;
- Grow site traffic further;
- Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.
If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.
Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.Support Shetland News