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New Zealand Customs detector dog trainer Tyler (left) helps detector dog Delta disembark from offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago with detector dog handler Robert after the training

NZDF supports training of Customs’ detector dogs

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is supporting the training of detector dogs, which help New Zealand Customs catch smugglers trying to bring illegal drugs and undeclared cash into the country.

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Three detector dogs, with their handlers, have been training on the Royal New Zealand Navy’s offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago, says Lieutenant Commander Ben Martin, the ship’s commanding officer.

“The purpose of the training is to expose and familiarise our detector dogs with the environment inside a marine vessel,” says Danielle Loza, chief Customs officer for detector dogs and maritime teams. “It aims to help our dogs prepare for deployment on cruise ships, yachts and other vessels to search for contraband such as illegal drugs and quantities of undeclared cash.” 

New Zealand Customs detector dog Zion, led by dog handler Oleana, inspects one of the cabins on the Royal New Zealand Navy’s offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago as part of their training prior to deployment on cruise ships, yachts and other vessels to search for contraband such as illegal drugs and undeclared cash

The dogs are 18-month-old labradors that were brought from the Australian Border Force early this year. As part of their initial 13-week training, the dogs are trained to sniff out illegal drugs. Once they have built up their library of narcotics odours, they are then trained to detect quantities of cash.

Training support

Ms Loza says the NZDF has been supporting Customs in training detector dogs for at least 12 years. “The NZDF’s support has been invaluable because it enables our detector dogs to apply their skills in a marine environment.

“Apart from building closer collaboration and partnership between our two agencies, we know from experience that training for our detector dogs is most effective if conducted in a real-world environment.”

New Zealand Customs detector dog handler Ian and detector dog Yardan do the rounds on the Royal New Zealand Navy’s offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago to help prepare detector dogs for deployment on cruise ships, yachts and other vessels to search for contraband

Lieutenant Commander Martin says crew members are pleased to support the training. “These dogs play a vital role in protecting our country’s borders and we are pleased to have this opportunity to contribute to efforts in making New Zealand a safer place.”

Customs has detector dog teams working at airports and ports across the country and the International Mail Centre in Auckland.


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