Following January’s graduation, twelve officers who trained to handle eight drug-and-bomb-detecting K9 dogs have begun to patrol Palau’s points of entry, and have proven effective, says newly-appointed Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) Director Ismael Aguon.
While the absence of regular air travel has temporarily decreased the need for K9 detection at the airport, Director Aguon said that the dogs are still being used to check air cargo, mail, and cargo containers offloaded at the seaports.
“We’re fortunate right now that there are no passenger travels, and we’re also fortunate because there’s quarantine involved, there’s more security involved in the travel of people,” said Director Aguon. “But we still have cargo coming in at all three locations.”
According to Aguon, the K9 dogs have already detected illegal substances attempting to be smuggled through the checkpoints, although he said that he is not at liberty to disclose details due to ongoing investigations.
Meanwhile, the Director says that the officers responsible for the K9 dogs, who work in the Narcotics Enforcement Agency (NEA), the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and the Airport Division, are maintaining the level of effectiveness of the dogs by training with them every week.
While this is not the first working-dog program which Palau has used, the Director said at January’s graduation that the current program is proving to be much more coordinated and effective than the previous one, because in the past program the handler had trained with a different agency than that which initially trained the dog.
Aguon says that the US team of five handlers, who were subcontracted by Bellum K9 to train Palau’s officers over a two-and-a-half-month course, have finished their official work with the K9 handlers, with the exception of the veterinarian, Dr. Kristen Decina, who is continuing to provide healthcare for the dogs on an extended contract.
Right now, the dogs are being kept in a temporary kennel facility constructed by the last Navy Seabee Civic Action Team behind the Customs Office in Malakal. A permanent kennel facility is set to be constructed near Palau International Airport in Airai, but Director Aguon says that this project is still in its permitting phase, and it is expected to take at least two years before it is completed.
While the absence of regular flights throughout most of 2020 has caused a decrease in drug-smuggling, the Director says that it has not eliminated it, with some traffickers continuing to import drugs through mail and cargo shipments. Throughout 2020, Post Customs seized five packages containing suspected methamphetamine sent from the US, totaling 183 grams.