Customs dog Pepi and his handler Mika Niemenmaa in Turku. Photo: Jukka Pätynen /


Pepi, a seasoned drug detection dog working in Turku, Finland, has been named Customs Dog of the Year for his exceptional work in uncovering narcotics cleverly concealed in children's toys. His remarkable achievements will be celebrated at the Dog Fair in December.

In March 2023, Pepi was at the center of a significant drug seizure while on duty at an express freight company's warehouse in Turku.

The Labrador Retriever detected a shipment containing 500 grams of amphetamine hidden inside children's toys. A similar consignment was discovered, totaling two significant finds.

Pepi's keen sense of smell led to another major discovery in June 2023. In the same warehouse, he sniffed out 600 grams of MDMA, a potent drug, ingeniously concealed within a children's puzzle. Both the amphetamine and MDMA consignments originated from the Netherlands, and their combined street market value was estimated to be around €36,000.

"The drug detection dog's action and indication were crucial in uncovering these crimes," said Kimmo Kaunisto, the investigator in charge at Customs. "Without Pepi, these narcotic stashes might have remained undetected."

Pepi, who started his career in 2017 with handler Mika Niemenmaa at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport before transferring to Turku, is renowned for his meticulous and confident working style. Niemenmaa described Pepi as a sensitive-nosed, spontaneous, and active worker, capable of detecting scents from moving vehicles. Despite his withdrawn nature as a puppy, Pepi transformed into an active dog during training. His ability to rest during downtime is seen as a strength by his handler.

Away from work, Pepi is a calm and modest dog, preferring solitude even in a household with other pets. His preference for peace reflects his focused working style.

Customs dogs like Pepi play a vital role in protecting society. Trained to detect not only narcotics but also cigarettes, snus, cash, and foodstuffs, these dogs are an integral part of Customs' enforcement operations. Their keen sense of smell is an invaluable aid in control and preliminary investigations, often leading to criminal investigations. In 2022 alone, customs dogs conducted 36,800 controls.

Pepi's recognition as Customs Dog of the Year underscores the importance of working dogs in law enforcement and their contribution to safeguarding society from illegal activities.