Police officers have filthy mouths, and Khandallah schoolgirl Sarah Scott can prove it - even though her dog ate some of the evidence.
Her science project investigation into whether police dogs or their handlers have more bacteria in their mouths has won her a chance to compete in a science and technology fair - but it also produced some disturbingly close results.
Sarah, 11, of St Benedict's School, examined bacteria from the mouths of eight police dogs and their handlers. Fortunately for the handlers' reputations, their mouths proved cleaner than the dogs, but only just.
Sarah's project won her school science competition - despite her jack russell Rupert climbing on to the dining table and eating four of the samples just two weeks before the project was due.
His behaviour was not only unhelpful, but pretty gross, Sarah said.
"Those petri dishes were smelly and they had heaps of bacteria."
The dog handlers helped Sarah out by repeating the experiment, swabbing their dogs' mouths to avoid Sarah being bitten.
She said she was very grateful for their help.
"I feel that they dedicated a lot of time to my project and helped me a lot."
Six-year-old Rupert, however, was collared for destroying evidence - incriminated by photographs of broken petri dishes at the "crime scene".
For ethical reasons, Sarah, who hopes to become a vet, refused to entertain The Dominion Post's questions about which of the eight Wellington police officers involved in her research had the worst breath.
However, she did reveal police dog Link had the highest oral bacterial count - and that the dogs proved the most obedient research subjects.
Link's handler, Wellington police dog section head Senior Sergeant Mark Davidson, said he was proud of his "top dog". He and his colleagues who volunteered to take part in Sarah's project admired her work ethic.
"To get up in front of a bunch of hairy-arse dog handlers and get her spiel across takes a huge amount of courage for a young kid. She did great."
Sarah's project is one of 10 that St Benedict's has entered into the Niwa Wellington regional science and technology fair.
The event will be held at Victoria University at the end of August.
- The Dominion Post