Synthetic drug detector dogs ahead of the game in keeping prisons safe

  • Hon Kelvin Davis

Corrections’ detector dogs are the first in New Zealand to be trained in sniffing out synthetic cannabis and other new psychoactive substances, playing a crucial role in keeping prisons safe, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says.

Five detector dog teams graduated from a specialised week-long training course earlier this year and are now trained to detect the main ingredients most commonly found in a range of psychoactive substances, including synthetic cannabis.

“We know synthetic drugs are dangerous and pose a significant risk to people’s safety, security and wellbeing both inside and outside prison,” Kelvin Davis said.

“It’s not a widespread problem in prisons, but we need to stay one step ahead in preventing these substances from being introduced and distributed in the first place. This is about being proactive to ensure staff, prisoners and visitors are kept safe.

“The ingredients of synthetic drugs are constantly changing which means training will have to be ongoing, but this is an important step towards mitigating the potential dangers of these harmful substances.

“The next step is to make it easier for Corrections to test prisoners suspected of taking synthetic drugs to ensure people receive appropriate rehabilitation and drug treatment where needed.

“The Corrections Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament, and if passed, will allow prisoners to be tested for a wider range of drugs, including synthetic cannabis, and charged with a disciplinary offence if they return a positive test,” Kelvin Davis said.

A total of 25 drug, cellphone and tobacco detector dog teams operate in New Zealand prisons.