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Puppy set to play an active role in prison life 21 July 2008

Blue with handler Stan Gorry and Deputy Prison Governor ColiTHE Isle of Man Prison Service is preparing to unleash the latest weapon in its bid to combat the supply of drugs to inmates.

He may be impossibly cute and adorable at the moment, but 12-week-old Blue will soon be playing a very active role in prison life. The black Labrador will be carefully nurtured over the coming months in readiness for being put to work shortly after his first birthday.

He will undergo specialist scent recognition training in order to detect any illegal substances that visitors may be attempting to smuggle inside the prison. But for now this fluffy bundle of energy will be allowed to lead a regular dog’s life – playing, exercising and having fun under the supervision of handler Stan Gorry.

Blue has been the star attraction at Victoria Road since arriving as an eight-week-old puppy. As well as developing a bond with his handler, the playful youngster has been getting accustomed to his new environment and the noises associated with a working prison.

He will eventually be trained to take over drug detection duties from one of Stan’s current dogs, a chocolate Lab called Charlie who is retiring in a year’s time after a successful career with the Prison Service. Blue will then assume his place as one of a four-strong canine team – working alongside another black Lab, Dylan, and two Springer Spaniels, Alfie and Dusty.

Those particular breeds of dogs are chosen by prison authorities and police forces for their hunting instincts and ability to distinguish different scents. The Labradors are trained as passive dogs to assist in searching people, while the Spaniels are active dogs used to detect illegal substances in cells and vehicles.

While frontline duties at the Island’s new prison in Jurby lie ahead, for the time being Blue faces nothing more strenuous than eating, sleeping and chasing his favourite tennis ball. Handler Stan Gorry said:

‘He’s got a lovely temperament and he’s already shaping up well. He’s really laid-back, but also very inquisitive and always up for a bit of mischief. We introduce the puppies at an early age so they can get used to the surroundings, but for the first six months they are just left to get on with living a normal life.’

Blue goes home with Stan at the end of his shifts at Victoria Road and the two will be inseparable in the months ahead. Discipline and dog obedience will be instilled as the young pup matures before the specialist nature of his training gets under way at about eight or nine months. That will initially involve scent recognition as Blue learns how to sniff out concealed drugs and indicate his finds to his handler.

Around the time of his first birthday he will travel with Stan to the UK for an intensive six-week training programme with the North West area search team based at Kirkham Prison. Subject to passing a final assessment, Blue will then be licensed as a passive drug dog and set to work at the jail at Jurby.

He will greet every person entering the prison gates – staff as well as visitors – and alert his handler if somebody is trying to smuggle an illegal substance into the facility. The passive and active dogs, who work under the supervision of Stan and Simon Murray, have been extremely successful in detecting drugs at Victoria Road in recent years.

Deputy Prison Governor Colin Ring said:

‘There’s no denying that Blue is absolutely adorable, but there is also a very serious side to his presence at the prison. The dogs are there for a specific purpose and that’s to stop drugs entering the prison environment. We want the message to go out that attempting to supply drugs to prisoners will not be tolerated and anybody caught breaking the law will be prosecuted. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep illegal substances out of the prison and the dogs have proved to be an extremely effective part of those efforts.’

Minister for Home Affairs Martyn Quayle MHK added:

‘Anybody thinking about trying to smuggle drugs into the Island’s prison should be warned that they run a very high risk of being apprehended. We take a hard line against drug crime in the Isle of Man and the penalties for offenders can be severe.’

Click on the thumbnail pictures below to view larger images of Blue.

Blue and handler Stan GorryBlue chasing a piece of grassBlue sitting in prison gardensBlue standing on a wall

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