An Isle of Man Prison Service dog and his handler have scooped a prestigious award at the British Police and Services Canine Association (BPSCA) Dog Trials.
Sport, an English springer spaniel cross, and Dog Handler Simon Secretan won the ‘Service Dog of the Year – Drug Search’ title at the annual competition held in Newbold Revel, Warwickshire.
Simon and Sport claimed the honours ahead of dogs and handlers representing services including the British Armed Forces, Police, HM Prison and Ministry of Defence.
The standard of competition is always extremely high and Simon, who took part in the BPSCA event at his own expense, was entering for the first time.
The trials test various skills and behaviours, with dogs and handlers working as a team to complete a range of operational challenges against the clock. Simon and Sport had a 100% success rate in the Drug Search category to take top spot ahead of several very experienced competitors.
Victory is reward for the dedication Simon has shown in training Sport and underlines the high standard and effectiveness of the Isle of Man Prison Service dog section.
It also marks a happier chapter in the life of Sport who was taken in as a stray by an animal welfare sanctuary and spent time at the Dogs Trust after an unsuccessful attempt to rehome him. Fortunately his potential was spotted by a member of the North West Area Search Dog School where the Isle of Man prison dogs are trained and assessed.
Simon, a Manx-born former Royal Marine, and Sport work at the prison in Jurby alongside DH Keith Burns, three-year-old black Labrador Edward and 2½-year-old springer spaniel Oscar.
The dogs play a key role in maintaining discipline and safety in prison, carrying out a number of searches that would not be possible with officers alone. This helps to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
They are trained to detect illicit substances such as drugs and alcohol, which have the potential to cause disorder and disruption to the prison regime. More than 100 litres of illicitly brewed alcohol have been confiscated thanks to the good work of the dogs and their handlers.
As a smoking ban is in place at the prison, this year saw the Isle of Man lead the way as the first country in Europe to introduce a specialist prison tobacco detection dog. In addition to his prison duties, Oscar is working with Customs and Excise to search for counterfeit and illegally imported tobacco.
Keith, Simon and their dogs are also active in the community, delivering talks and demonstrations to schools and organisations to raise awareness of the significance of their work.
Michael Coleman MLC, Member of the Department of Home Affairs with responsibility for the Prison and Probation Service, said: ‘I’d like to congratulate Simon and Sport on their success at the British Police and Services Canine Association Dog Trials. This shows the level of professionalism of the Isle of Man handlers and their dogs stands favourable comparison with the very best of those working across the British services.’
He added: ‘There is a serious side to this as Keith, Simon and their dogs have a crucial part to play in the smooth running of the prison. At a time of budget restraint, their effectiveness is a further example of the value for money provided by services across the Department of Home Affairs.’