Rehomed dogs to graduate as explosive detector dogs

22 Apr 2015

Four shelter canines turn out to be ‘the bomb’ at bomb detection

The Aviation Security Service (‘Avsec’) is pleased that four rehomed dogs gifted to it from animal rescue organisations, HUHA and the SPCA, will soon graduate as fully trained explosive detector dogs (EDD), working to protect our nation’s airports and skies.

Avsec is the branch of the Civil Aviation Authority responsible for providing security services at New Zealand’s six security-designated airports, and has a prestigious EDD training programme which was officially recognised by the United States’ Transportation Security Administration last October—a world-first acknowledgement.

The ten-week programme consists of an allocation course where the teams are assessed for suitability, and a 9-week Explosive Detector Dog Course at the Police Dog Training Centre in Upper Hutt.  The course is delivered and supervised by two instructors—one from Avsec and one from the New Zealand Police—to  train four teams (consisting of one Avsec handler and one dog per team) to search and find explosives in different environments.   At the end of the course the teams are tested and certified by the New Zealand Police. A passing grade means the teams graduate as ‘operational’.

HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) actively works to find homes for a multitude of homeless, high-needs, abandoned, seized and abused animals, and is thrilled that Avsec is able to provide the dogs a new chance at life in service of New Zealand, with caring and capable handlers.

“We’re really rapt with what Avsec does for these dogs that don’t quite fit into society but go on to do great things in service of society,” says HUHA’s founder, Carolyn Press-McKenzie.

Avsec EDD National Manager Monique Masoe says that the two organisations have a strong relationship because of their common interest in securing positive outcomes for both the dogs and the communities that they live in.

“As an EDD, the dogs enjoy a great life and do an important job—not just for Avsec, but for the travelling public and airport community,” she says.

The graduation ceremony will take place at the Police Dog Training Centre in Trentham, Upper Hutt, 2:30-3:30pm on Thursday 30 April 2015, with previous owners and shelter staff attending the occasion. Media are welcome to attend.


About the soon-to-be-graduates

  • Trainee dog Blaze is a two-year-old Huntaway/Terrier Cross gifted by HUHA in Otaki, after he was surrendered to them by a loving family unable to keep Blaze due to health issues. Having grown up confined to a kitchen with only human contact, Blaze had formed a close bond with the family’s 5-year-old son, which made their parting even more difficult and left Blaze with much to learn about being a dog. HUHA staff taught Blaze the basics and then realised that he would benefit from a having a greater purpose. Blaze will be stationed at Wellington Airport.

 Blaze in cargo hold

  • Trainee dog Jazz is a two-year-old Labrador/Huntaway cross who was due to be euthanised at a pound because she reacted badly to other dogs. Otaki HUHA Shelter Manager Claire Thornton couldn’t bring herself to give up on Jazz so took her to HUHA and worked hard to retrain and rehome her. However, Jazz was returned to HUHA after jumping onto a child’s backpack and knocking him over. HUHA staff soon realised that Jazz was not acting aggressively but could smell something interesting in the backpack and “clearly had a good nose on her!” so was a prime candidate for EDD training. Jazz will be stationed at Auckland Airport.


  • Trainee dog Sammy (previously Gidget) is a Labrador cross, aged approximately 14 months and gifted by the SPCA in Hokitika. She was born on a farm and shortly after, her mother was hit by a car and lost her leg – her owners were unable to care for Sammy and her 8 siblings and so relinquished them to the SPCA. Sammy will be stationed at Christchurch Airport.


  • Trainee dog Bella (previously Custard) is a German Shorthair Pointer, bought as a pet by a loving family in Gisborne. Though she was loved and well cared for, after fifteen months Bella’s family realised that she had more energy than they could cater to. They contacted HUHA, who helped to connect Bella with Avsec. Despite losing Bella as a family member, Bella’s previous owners are thrilled that she is happy and channeling her energy as an EDD. Bella will be stationed at Auckland Airport.