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Old March 13th, 2004, 12:32 AM
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Dogs sniff out drugs in jails

Dogs have become a major part of the drug detection program at Canadian prisons. Dogs and their handlers from across the prairies gathered near Drumheller Thursday to show off their skills.

Kona, the lab, has a lot of fun when he is working. Kona and her canine friends work for Corrections Canada. They are trained to sniff out drugs.

"Every narcotic has a different signature, and so he's trained on all the different narcotics for the specific in that particular narcotic." said Bill Webster, a corrections officer.

Every penitentiary has a full time drug detection dog and handler. They start each search with a quick pass of the area.

"Then we go back and I pinpoint anything that I think could contain narcotics. It could be a plug in the wall and I go along and pinpoint everything and he checks everything that I tell him." said Webster.

The dogs are passive. When they find drugs, they do not go after them. They simply alert their handlers by sitting. Then the pooches are rewarded with fun.

On the job, the dogs are expected to search all areas in and around the institution. They have to be able to detect drugs anywhere, including a person's pocket. Pockets are not usually the place people choose to smuggle drugs.

"In the heal of their shoe, and switch shoes with an inmate, in a baby's diaper, it has been known for people to put it in body cavities, just to smuggle it through." said Bob Lytle, the assistant warden of Drumheller Institution.

The dogs have a very high detection rate. In the last year, Bill and his dog Montana have made 26 seizures, worth $73,000. They are regularly called in to search visitors and for random cell checks.

The dogs come from all sorts of backgrounds, usually around one year of age. The handlers must already be corrections officers. They go through ten weeks of training together before starting their jobs
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