A small group of specially trained detector dogs are sniffing out synthetic drugs in New Zealand’s prisons.
Five dogs have been in action since March, searching for ever-changing psychoactive substances smuggled into prisons.
Since then, the dogs have retrieved 33 samples of synthetic cannabis, nearly one a week. But that's nowhere near as high as other drugs that are found.
But the Ministry of Corrections said it's front-footing potential prison deaths from synthetics after inmate fatalities overseas.
"It is on our streets, it is affecting our communities, so as a team the dog handlers felt that they wanted to front foot this emerging threat," Manager Specialist Search Jay Mills told 1 NEWS.
"We have a duty of care to our prisoners, our staff and our prisoners ensuring we keep our site safe."
It’s something Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis supports.
"We know that psychoactive substances are out in the streets, in our communities and we would be naive to think people aren't trying to get them into our prisons," Mr Davis said.
Corrections is working with the Ministry of Health, and Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to improve the scope of ingredients they can detect.
"NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) is extremely difficult to keep on top of, in terms of the chemical makeup of the drug," Mr Mills said.
It’s a tough job for both the dog, and trainers.
"We match it up to what we're searching for currently and if we see any differences or irregularities with ingredients it means we can go back to our training room and load our dogs with that odour. So we are constantly staying ahead of what's out there today," dog trainer Ricky Trevithick said.
Training for the five dogs will be on-going, with ingredients constantly changing and new batches constantly coming onto the drug market.