Sniffer dogs on Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have helped police bust more than £250,000 of drugs this year, it has been revealed.
The teams of Labradors, each supported by a local charity, have proved invaluable in leading officers to substantial drug hauls – on the mainland as well as on the islands.
Shetland-based charity Dogs Against Drugs was founded by a group of locals in 2001, and have provided four dogs currently working alongside law enforcement – Axel, Blade, Odin and Thor.
Since the start of the year, the value of the illegal substances and cash they have helped to detect amounts to £125,363.
An investigation launched after the Shetland dogs identified seven suspicious parcels at Lerwick Post Office last month ultimately led to one person being arrested in the north-east and police work being carried out in the Glasgow area.
Zoe, the black Lab provided by the Orkney Drugs Dog charity, has more than pulled her weight by helping to track down drugs valued at £62,000.
That includes £10,000 of substances seized by police in Glasgow last month using information gathered by Zoe, her handler and officers based in Kirkwall.
Stornoway-based drug dog Bear – who made headlines last year after sniffing out £11,000 of cocaine and £1,000 of cannabis just days after starting on the job – has assisted in the seizure of almost £56,000 of illegal drugs on the Western Isles since the beginning of January.
He and his handler are supported by the Outer Hebrides Alcohol and Drug Partnership.
Superintendent Iain MacLelland said: “These are just a few examples of the excellent detection work that has taken place during the past year by these charities, and I would like to take this chance to thank them for their invaluable efforts – not only have they made a significant impact in minimising harm locally, but also in our communities nationwide.
“On a daily basis, the dogs are deployed in a range of environments to carry out proactive checks at airports, ferry terminals and parcel delivery depots, as well as delivering educational programmes to local schools, colleges and businesses.”
When they are not working alongside local police officers, the dogs and their handlers often pay visits to schools on the islands to warn children about the dangers of drugs.
Superintendent MacLelland added: “As we continue to adapt to changing trends in how we police our communities as a consequence of the pandemic, officers across the Highlands and Islands have identified an increase in the quantity of controlled drugs being seized from postal delivery services.
“This trend has been most evident in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland where the local area commanders are supported by drugs detection dogs secured as a result of funding by their local communities.
“Collectively, we are absolutely committed to working with communities and partners in the UK to reduce the availability of drugs and will continue to take robust action against those involved in such criminal activity.
“My thanks go to these charities once again – I can say with some certainty that these areas are safer place to live thanks to the handlers and their trusted dogs.”