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Community / Puppies Bravo and Hera join Dogs Against Drugs team

Junior dog handlers Hannah Anderson and Megan Grant have taken the puppies under their wing

Dog handlers Hannah Anderson (left) with Hera and Megan Grant (right) with Bravo. Photo: Shetland News

TWO springer spaniel puppies are settling into their new lives in Shetland ahead of getting trained up as drugs dogs.

Bravo and Hera have been taken under the wing of junior drugs dog handlers Hannah Anderson and Megan Grant.

The puppies join the existing Dogs Against Drugs team in Shetland, which includes Thor (7), Axel (6) and Oscar (3).

The puppies were taken to Shetland from the mainland on the ferry earlier this week, with NorthLink staff getting a chance to meet the dogs while en route to Lerwick.

On Thursday they enjoyed the spotlight again during a cheque presentation for £3,000 from local firm Garriock Bros. to Dogs Against Drugs, which is helping to pay for the costs of the puppies.

Hannah and Megan said the puppies were settling in fine after their journey north.

The Dogs and Against Drugs charity was launched in 2001 as an extra way of detecting illegal substances arriving in Shetland, working in tandem with the police.

The inspiration behind the charity came from Janet and Ian Davidge after seeing a sniffer dog check arrivals in Faroe.

The dogs are trained purely on scent, and they never come in contact with samples.

Project manager Michael Coutts said the charity has never stopped during the pandemic, particularly when it comes to intercepting parcels coming into Shetland in the post and on freight boats.

“Obviously during the pandemic there’s not been many people travelling, but there’s been a lot of people sending stuff up through courier companies,” he said.

From left to right: Garriock Bros’ Fiona Nicholson, junior dog handlers Hannah Anderson and Megan Grant, Garriock’s Laura Garriock.

“There was quite a high profile sentencing recently of stuff that we found in a pressure washer.

“We had about £150,000 [worth of drugs found] last year, and this year we’re about £80,000 worth of drugs since January.”

The charity also carries out drugs education in schools, although the Covid pandemic had a big impact on getting the message out to children.

The team, however, managed to get back into the Anderson High School and Bell’s Brae primary before the summer holidays.

“We’ve spoken about 800 pupils in the last month before the schools closed,” Coutts said.

“We’re ramping up our education programme when the schools go back. We’re doing to Brae, Whiteness, Aith…any secondary or primary schools that want us.”

Detective sergeant Bruce Peebles, meanwhile, said the help Dogs And Against Drugs provides is “almost immeasurable”.

“In terms of the detecting packages which get sent to Shetland, there are obviously a limited number of ways you can do that,” he said.

“The dog will find things or give an indication about things that no-one else would.”

He added that Shetland, with its modest population size, is punching above its weight when it comes the presence of drugs dogs.

Peebles said while a “large part of the drug use is really a health issue”, the police’s role is in enforcement, prevention, detection and intercepting drugs.

He said education is also key – “breaking the cycle and making folk aware of what can happen and the issues that can arise”.

The dogs getting the star treatment on the NorthLink ferry earlier this week. Photo: NorthLink Ferries