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Police / Young pups complete first stage of drugs dog training

Drugs worth roughly £33,000 were seized in Shetland in June and July with the help of detection dogs

Dog handlers Megan Grant (left) and Hannah Anderson (right) with project manager Michael Coutts (centre). Photo: Dogs Against Drugs

TWO drugs dogs which arrived in Shetland last summer as puppies have just completed their first phase of training.

Bravo and Hera are now qualified to undertake area searches – such as in buildings like the Post Office.

The next step is for the one-year-old springer spaniels to progress to body scanning, like people coming off the ferry.

The police’s Shetland area commander chief inspector Stuart Clemenson said the drugs dogs are an “absolutely fantastic resource” for officers.

It comes after around £33,000 worth of drugs were seized with the help of local charity Dogs Against Drugs in June and July alone.

The postal system remains a popular method for dealers trying to get drugs into Shetland.

Dogs Against Drugs was set up as a charity in Shetland back in 2002 in an attempt to tackle the issue of illegal drugs in partnership with the police, with the canines trained to detect certain scents – and more than just cannabis.

Bravo and Hera were taken under the wing of new handlers Hannah Anderson and Megan Grant last year, who are also special constables with the police.

The dogs are actually ahead of schedule in their training, and the next phase is due to begin soon.

Project manager Michael Coutts said: “They are licensed now for area search, which is basically any kind of building search, vehicles, that kind of thing.

“Over this last year they have been doing a lot of training in Shetland, with me as their instructor – just to build up their confidence, and to build up their environmental awareness of things, like going to different places.”

He said the hope is to have the two dogs fully trained by spring next year.

Bravo and Hera are licensed by the dog section in Police Scotland in Aberdeen, Coutts added.

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Bravo and Hera pictured after being taken to Shetland last summer. Photo: Shetland News

Bravo is said to be “bold, confident and keen to work” – and a fan of treats and cuddles – while Hera, the team’s only female dog, is described as enthusiastic and very capable.

The local team has a total of five dogs just now, with the oldest being eight-year-old Thor.

He is looking ahead to retirement and a gentler pace of life when he reaches nine. The other two senior dogs are Axel (7) and Oscar (4).

Clemenson said a lot of the Dogs Against Drugs work is proactive, such as heading to the ferry terminal and airport.

“Sometimes they’ve been involved in 15, 20, 25 thousand pounds worth of drugs in one go, other times it can be small amounts of drugs,” he said.

“No matter what the value is, it shows that they are proactively deploying in the communities and taking the drugs off the streets.

“It’s an absolutely invaluable resource here, and I can’t praise them enough.”

Meanwhile people can also get a chance to meet Bravo and Hera at an open day at Lerwick Police Station on Saturday (27 August) between 12.30pm and 4pm.

Other emergency services will present at the event, which is said to be family-friendly, while people can have a barbecue and see in the cells.

“People can come along and hopefully break down those barriers of the perception of police and the emergency services in general and [they] can see that we’re just normal people who live and work in the community here in Shetland,” Clemenson said.

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