Detector Dog Training Aids – An Uncertain Future?
Vanessa Kellie from Gradko Forensic Ltd provides an overview of the detector dog training aids market.
As a newcomer to the world of detector dog training, I thought I’d offer up my ‘outsiders’
I used to work in the Drugs department at the Forensic Science Service (FSS). As part of my role there, I used to oversee the production of drug training aids for the detector dog sector.
When I joined Gradko as quality manager, we set up a drugs forensic laboratory alongside the existing environmental science business, and as part of this, I thought I’d get back into providing drug samples for detector dog training aids. I have since learnt that despite obtaining Home Office licenses to possess, manufacture, supply and destroy all classes of controlled drugs, it is impossible to obtain drugs in large enough quantities to be able to produce these aids. This situation looks set to remain for the foreseeable future.
By contrast, the explosives training aid market appears at first glance to be very reasonable. It is a fairly straightforward matter to obtain an explosives license from the local police force, and the majority of explosives are easily obtained fairly cheaply. On closer inspection however, there is a wider issue in that Home-Made Explosive (HME) training aids as provided by DSTL are only available to the Public Sector, freezing out private sector dog training companies. As the majority of bombs seen in war zones, and indeed in terrorist activity in the UK are of this type, it would seem sensible that explosives detector dogs should be trained on these materials.
So, what’s the answer?
In short, there is no easy answer, however a few options are available. Firstly, Gradko is the licensed UK distributor for the acclaimed Scentlogix™ synthetic scents, which offer an alternative to the ‘real’ thing. Secondly, we are working in conjunction with our research partners ‘Malpeet K9’ to develop trace narcotic and explosive training aids aimed at the private detector dog market. Thirdly, we are hoping to eventually be able to make up training aids for licensed dog trainers in all sectors.
As an outsider, it seems the issue of availability of appropriate training aids is one which is close to the hearts of the detector dog community and is threatening to undermine efforts to tackle drug and terrorist activities in the UK. Hopefully with a concerted effort from all interested parties, we should be able to turn this around.
Vanessa Kellie and Richard Curtis at The NASDU Security Dog Trials 2012
What is Scentlogix?
Scentlogix scents are manufactured in the US where they are widely used as alternatives to 'real' scents. They work by copying the parent odour of the substance, so that to a dog it is indistinguishable from the genuine substance. Each training aid represents around 400lbs of odour, and it is reported that dogs trained on these products can then go on to detect trace levels as well as bulk. The main benefits of these training aids are that they can be handled, transported and stored without licenses or risk. If you'd like to ask more questions or order a Scentlogix™ training aid, please contact Vanessa Kellie on Vanessa@gradkolab.com or call 01962 860331