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May 21, 2005 - BBC News (UK)

Powder Mix-Up Fools Sniffer Dogs

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A team of Australian drug sniffer dogs has been sent back for retraining, after it was found they could only track talcum powder, not cocaine.

Melbourne police found that the white powder used to hone the dogs' nostrils was not in fact an illegal substance.

A probe is now under way to see whether any illicit drugs have gone missing.

"They're very good at detecting talcum powder," joked Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans. "If there's any missing kids, we'll find them fairly quickly."

The seven dogs had been in training since January.

They are meant to sit down next to a person, when they detect the scent of cocaine.

Unfortunately, the dogs have yet to smell the drug, since the bag of white powder supplied by the Australian Federal Police for the canine training turned out to be talcum powder.

Police in Victoria have launched an inquiry to see whether any cocaine has gone missing.

But Assistant Commissioner Evans said that drugs were sometimes cut with other substances.

It was also possible that the training bag was mislabelled.

"It's embarrassing," Mr. Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It shouldn't happen, it did happen, it certainly tested our audit procedures, which have worked in this case.

"We have picked it up ourselves fairly quickly."

Victoria's Police Minister Tim Holding was unimpressed.

"I was surprised and I was disappointed," he said.

There is no word on how long it will take to break the dogs' talcum habit and retrain them to react only to cocaine.

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