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Dealers flee isles over dog patrols.

Byline: MIKE MERRITT

DRUG dealers are fleeing island communities a fortnight before locals set loose their own sniffer dogs.

The Shetland Dogs Against Drugs initiative was sparked when 21-year-old islander John Farquhar died from a methodone overdose last year.

Now the man heading the DAD campaign, Ian Davidge, says already at least two known dealers have moved out before the dogs move in.

He added: "It just shows the deterrent has already worked - and that we mean business."

Islanders raised more than pounds 20,000 in six weeks to buy Breia, a 20-month- old specially trained labrador. Vauxhall also donated a van to the project.

Breia, which means bonnie in Gaelic, will start patrols with local PC Andy Courts at airports and during house searches in two weeks.

While police are happy to use Breia, customs and excise has refused to accept the dog.

But islanders have pressed ahead - recruiting one of the island's only three customs officers as a second dog handler.

Michael Coutts quit customs last month and, together with his dog, will also take on drug traffickers.

Mr Davidge revealed that islanders had now raised more than pounds 30,000 and were in talks with BP, who operate the Sullom Voe oil terminal, about becoming a sponsor of thepounds 40,000- a-year scheme.

Mr Davidge said: "We would patrol the terminal and planes going out to the oil rigs in return."

A spokesman for BP said no decision had yet been taken over the sponsorship deal.

Ironically the row with customs highlights the decision by customs and excise to remove all drug sniffer dogs from Scotland last year.

Mr Davidge added: "John's death highlighted the growing problem with hard drugs on Shetland. We know there are a lot of drugs coming in off our ferries and through the mail."

A spokesman for customs and excise would not comment specifically on the Shetland row because it was now being dealt with by Parliament.

But he said there was no need to permanently have sniffer dogs in Scotland because they were better served by a wider pool of dogs in England.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 3, 2002
Words:352
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