A sniffer dog in Haringey uncovered an estimated £17,850 worth of contraband products within the space of an hour earlier this month.
Pippa, a seven-year-old springer spaniel, sniffed out more than eight thousand unlicensed cigarettes, 14 kg of illegal tobacco and 1,500 non-compliant vapes from a Wood Green vape shop and adjoining chicken shop on 9 January.
Wagtail handler Eric said: “Pippa’s probably helped seize millions of pounds worth of goods over the last seven years.
“Without the help of these dogs, you could be in a shop for weeks and not uncover some of the concealments we’ve found.”
During the operation, Pippa detected contraband goods and cash hidden behind panels in a wall and in a concealed storage room.
Contraband goods are a big problem for Haringey Council’s Trading Standards Service, as many small businesses rely on them due to competition with other shops.
Haringey Council’s Trading Standards Service officer Tim said: “In a shop like this, I estimate that half of its stock is non-compliant, maybe even more than that.
“We can raid some shops three times in a day and each time they’ve already replaced the seized stock – it’s an incredibly lucrative operation.”
A case file will now be opened to determine the next enforcement action for the store owner, such as prosecution or a caution.
Haringey Council will continue to monitor the business, and revisits will be made to ensure the law is being followed.
Tim added: “At the end of the day, even if you don’t get someone in court or issue a fine, what really hurts them is the loss in revenue.”
According to UK law, disposable vapes that contain nicotine can only have a maximum tank size of two millilitres (about 600 puffs) due to the poisonous nature of liquid nicotine.
Some of the vapes seized during the operation went up to 10,000 puffs, most of which are available only in foreign markets.
The non-compliant cigarettes and tobacco were seized for not displaying the approved UK health information and imagery.
As for Pippa, seizures like this are all in a day’s work.
She and Eric travel up and down the country, working with organisations such as HMRC and the police.
Although Wagtail owns the dogs, many handlers take them home and treat them as part of the family.
Eric added: “You have to have that sort of close bond.
“When she’s switched off, she’s switched off, but when you put the vest on her, she knows she’s going to work.”
The names of the Haringey Council Trading Standards Service officer and the Wagtail dog handler have been changed to protect their identities.
Featured image credit: Oliver Halls