CUSTOMS’ SNIFFER dogs earned their keep by stopping almost €20 million worth of drugs being smuggled into the State last year, according to the Revenue Commissioners’ Customs service.
The drugs unit has 12 dogs based at air and sea ports in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Rosslare and Sligo and at the An Post mail centre in Portlaoise.
The dogs helped customs officers discover more than 2,830kg (6,240lbs) of herbal cannabis, cocaine, heroin and cannabis resin, as well as tobacco and money.
The dogs also prevented the smuggling of a €90 punnet of magic mushrooms and six hash cakes.
According to the Revenue Commissioners, €42 million worth of narcotics was seized at the State’s airports and ports last year.
Rosslare accounted for the largest haul as its Customs officials seized more than €19 million in drugs.
Some €13.2 million worth of drugs was seized at Dublin port while €8.2 million was seized at Dublin airport.
The value of drugs seized at Cork airport was more than €411,000.
The street value of the drugs seized at Shannon was €411,487 last year – almost four times the value of the 2007 seizures.
The Customs unit’s black Labrador Shadow was directly involved in 14 cannabis seizures at Shannon last year.
A spokesman for the Customs service said the animals were a very important element in its efforts to stop drugs and other substances entering the State illegally. “They are very, very useful and one of the important tools in the fight against smuggling,” he said.
Some dogs specialise in sniffing out drugs while others sniff out tobacco or cash.
One of the dogs, Dillon, has achieved some fame, having featured in the RTÉ series Customs. The four-year-old dog based at Rosslare Europort was also honoured with an award last October by South East Radio for his diligence.
He was set to work in 2005 and spent one month training with the RAF in the UK before beginning service at Rosslare Europort.
Last year he helped Customs officials to discover drugs worth more than €19 million.
Since he started work at Rosslare, he has prevented drugs worth an estimated €24 million being smuggled into the country.
The animals, usually work for up to seven years before retiring for a rewarding and quieter life. – (Additional reporting PA)