Kenny Rice with dog Banjo, Kevin Hattrill (Specialist Search Manager), Christian Swift with dog Henry, Craig Statham (Practical Tactical Instructor Dogs) and Jay Mills (Tactical Operations Manager).

Kenny Rice and Christian Swift alongside their four-legged partners Banjo and Henry are celebrating becoming fully fledged detector dog teams.

They joined second-time handler John Penney and newly trained dog Baz at a graduation ceremony hosted at the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre in Wellington on Thursday 23 May. The three teams were presented with certificates, with newly qualified handlers Kenny and Christian receiving their dog handler epaulettes.

Christian and Henry will be based at Christchurch Men’s Prison. Kenny and Banjo will work at Serco operated Auckland South Corrections Facility to replace John and Baz who are transferring to Whanganui Prison.

John Penney and Baz.

Tactical Operations Manager Jay Mills gave a speech welcoming the new dog and handler teams into the National Detector Dog Team.

“Being a dog handler is not a 9 to 5 job. It involves exercising, feeding and grooming the dog before and after the working day, and there’s no respite on annual leave days,” said Jay.

“A detector dog is not just a work colleague. They become a part of the handler’s family too, so it takes a highly committed person to take on this kind of responsibility.”

Jay also acknowledged the role Principal Tactical Dog Instructor Craig Statham played in guiding the new handlers through the 10-week training programme.

The three sets of partners will now join the 20 drug detector teams and six tobacco, cell phone and synthetic detector teams who have been working hard to keep staff, visitors and prisoners safe for over 28 years.

On top of their rigorous training, Kenny, Banjo, Christian and Henry recently gave up their weekend to help out at a Police event for charity Heart Kids New Zealand. Children with a heart condition had the opportunity to meet Police and Corrections dogs, and even some trainee puppies, and learnt about the work they do.

Great work guys and congratulations to all three dog and handler teams!