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Customs Welcomes Three 'Staff'

Front row, l-r: Customs Officer Cassius Anglin with Rui, Senior Customs Officer, Mr. Malachi Powery with Alfie and UK trainer Mr. Gareth Elliott and Jack; back row: Customs Officer Anthony Echenique, Deputy Collector (Border Protection Portfolio) Mr. Jeff Jackson and Collector of Customs, Mr. Charles Clifford.

Three new "civil service staff" have taken up residence on Grand Cayman and are already busy on the job. They are the newest hardworking "employees" of the Customs Department, having arrived all the way from the UK in mid-January. More importantly, they are still able to view all their daily work for the department as just a big game.

Of the canine persuasion, the three different coloured Labrador Retrievers are the latest to join the Customs K-9 team of six dogs. They are the sleek black-coated Alfie, the warm golden-hued Rui, both of whom are 2 years old and the more rambunctious chocolate Lab Jack, who is one year old and the baby of the entire K-9 team. All three sniffer dogs are trained to detect a variety of contraband, alerting officials in various ways.

They will be replacing three other sniffer dogs on the existing team, being "retired" after their faithful service over the years to the department.

The three new Labs are all raised and trained by Mr. Gareth Elliott, Director of Vikkas K9 Ltd., which is headquartered in the UK. Mr. Elliott runs a specialist kennel service for government entities notably law enforcement agencies in the UK and around the world. His company also supplied nine animals to the Cayman Islands Customs Department and the RCIPS in 2002.

This time around, Mr. Elliott arrived in Grand Cayman from Indonesia where his company is currently assisting their government to set up a search and rescue dog team. He is here now helping Senior Customs Officer Malachi Powery who works with Jack, Customs Officer Tate McFarlane who is in charge of Alfie, Customs Officer Cassius Anglin who works with Rui and Customs Officer Anthony Echenique who was also trained intensively and is awaiting the arrival of his new K9 partner - a dual-purpose sniffer and apprehension dog - so that each duo can work together as a finely tuned machine.

Collector of Customs Charles Clifford said, "The Customs K-9 unit is a very vital segment of our workforce and I am delighted that we were able to strengthen our team so that their input remains strong. It is crucial that we maintain the edge when it comes to our border protection responsibilities."

Deputy Collector Jeff Jackson (Border Protection Portfolio) said, "I am happy to note that we will now have a nearly full team. We are expecting one more dog in about two months, also from the same UK provider. The dogs are now essential resources in our continuing our vigilant protection of our borders as well as maintaining the integrity of the goods coming into our jurisdiction."

Trainer and dog provider Mr. Elliott has experience with dogs going back to his childhood, when he grew up with 40 German Shepherds that his parents kept; they were trainers and judges in dog competitions. He commented, "It is bittersweet every time I bring in the dogs that I have lived with and trained for all their lives and then having to leave them. Yet, I am very glad that officers of the calibre I have worked with in the Customs department will be able to take over and work with these eager young animals."

Senior Customs Officer Malachi Powery said, "We are very pleased with the quality of dogs and the training that we have received. We look forward to years of service from these enthusiastic and well- trained animals, similar to what we received from those now being retired."

Of the three retirees, Buster is the oldest at 14 and is a lovable Black Lab whose dad came as one of the original Customs K-9 team from the UK. Next is Blaze, a Beagle mix, who is 10 and has put in diligent service for six years, after arriving from active duty in law enforcement in Maricopa County in Arizona, USA. Also being retired is Bolt, a Belgian Malinois - who also gave diligent service to the Customs Department.


For further information contact: Bina Mani