Last week Infologue.com undertook an exclusive behind the scenes tour of G4S Canine Security Services headquarters, training and kennel facilities near Luton, writes Infologue.com Editor, Bobby Logue. As a canine fanatic who has a jaundiced view of the canine security industry, I was pleasantly surprised. It was an open book visit; class rooms, training fields, kennels, interviews of the trainers and the tail wagging students. The first impressions were the flow of passion and professionalism in the organisation from top to bottom and that included the four pawed members of the team. The canine students were put through their paces sniffing out explosives in a row of bags, a pallet of cargo, three vehicles in the car park and a series of containers designed to confuse. All the students passed with flying colours.
We started our visit by interviewing G4S Canine Security Services Managing Director John Whitwam who related how G4S recognised that there was a gap in the security market, namely in the canine provision of search and general-purpose dogs. G4S initially considered acquiring an existing canine business but very soon found out that there were very few truly reputable and impressive companies and many that would probably not pass their due diligence test. John Whitwam said that they found that even companies that would not achieve the standards G4S sets for itself were still free to trade perfectly legally as long as their employees were in possession of an SIA licence.
Whitwam said he was concerned that meeting the SIA licensing requirements was all that is required for somebody to set up business and to deliver canine explosive search in the UK. “I can tell you that this will come as little surprise to you that there are a large number of companies that offer a service that they simply cannot deliver to the required standard. I could find very few businesses that I thought was reliable or viable from a performance or commercial perspective so we decided to set ourselves up. So we find ourselves sitting here on the Luton Hoo Estate between Harpenden and Luton, where we set about achieving two things: the first is an industry leading canine training facility and secondly the best possible trainers”, John Whitwam told Infologue.com.
Each G4S Canine Security Services dog is a specialist in a specific discipline with the G4S Canine Security Services training school teaching three specific disciplines. The first discipline is a general-purpose dog whose primary function is to protect its handler. The second discipline is narcotics search dogs which are the best way to detect a range of drugs for which G4S holds the necessary narcotics licences. Finally, the third discipline is explosive search dogs and for training purposes G4S has licences to hold a range of explosives which the Government deems to be the greatest threat.
The specialist dog handler teams of G4S Canine Services are trained and assessed to the industry recognised BS 8157-1:2009 standard for general-purpose patrol dogs and detection dog handlers are trained and assessed to BS 8157-2:2010 code of practice. Although G4S predictably declined to list the nature of current explosive threats against which they train, they are likely to address threats from explosives such as Pentaerythritoltetranitrate (PETN), which was used in the failed ‘cartridge’ bomb attempts on several aircraft recently. Training is delivered by highly experienced National Association of Security Dog Users (NASDU) approved dog trainers with industry-leading qualifications and extensive operational experience.
One of the trainers Steve Gould, sitting with his dog Buddy, told Infologue.com that he has been a dog handler since 1990. He and Buddy were one of the first teams on the scene after the 7/7 bombings at Kings Cross on the day. Steve was sent down to search the train wreckage for secondary devices. He entered the scene of crime through the “dirty end” of the train wreckage amongst bodies. Steve and Buddy were part of the team who received the PDSA Gold Medal in 2007 at St James Palace, an animal bravery award that acknowledges the courage and devotion to duty of animals. It was created by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in 2001, and is now recognised as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.