Following her bravery, Anya, Wiltshire Police's most famous German Shepherd and her handler PC Neil Sampson have won the Police Dog Team Operational or Humanitarian Action of the Year Award 2008 which was presented at Crufts on Thursday 5 March.
On Thursday 3 January 2008, officers were called to an address in Swindon with there were reports of a man with a knife. PC Neil Sampson and his police dog Anya attended the scene and saw a man who fitted the description of the offender leaving a block of flats. PC Sampson called out to the man and he turned and came towards him brandishing a knife. Despite the warnings given to the man, he continued and PC Sampson was forced to send Anya in an attempt to stop him.
The man launched into a violent attack on PC Sampson who was severely injured sustaining stab wounds to his head and leg. Officers ran to assist and could see Anya barking and biting the knifeman. Another Officer was injured in the attack and eventually the offender was detained.
As PC Sampson was being treated for his injuries, Anya was taken back to the dog van where she remained calm. It was later discovered she had also been injured and received emergency surgery for a stab wound to her chest. PC Sampson and Anya have both made a full recovery and are back on frontline duties together. A 26 year old man was charged with two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent, one count of actual bodily harm and one of criminal damage and received a nine year prison sentence.
Anya's contribution was even more remarkable given her inexperience as a police dog and that it was her first operational encounter of a violent person. Despite having suffered a stab wound and with everything going on around her she remained focused on the suspect in determined defence of her handler, colleagues and members of the public.
One of PC Sampson's colleagues from the Wiltshire Police Armed Response Group said: 'Throughout this very violent and short incident Anya could be seen and heard still attempting to assist both PC Sampson, myself and other colleagues to deter further injury and to prevent the escape of the offender. Her presence at the incident assisted greatly in ensuring injuries caused were minimised and without her presence and determination not to let go and to protect, it is felt that the outcome could sadly have been very different.'
The award was decided by a panel from the ACPO Police Dog Working Group which looked at nominations from all over the United Kingdom and this is the first time a dog from Wiltshire has won.
The panel of judges said: 'The panel agreed that the actions of the dog, especially at such a young age and being faced with a situation which could never be replicated in training showed great courage and determination. To hold on after being stabbed and to continue to return again, take hold and defend the handler was excellent.
'This, accompanied by the fact that the handler, who had already been incapacitated, was unable to support the dog was something many fully trained and older dogs would not have done. The consequence of what could have happened to the handler or his colleagues had the police dog not acted instinctively in this way is something we did not wish to contemplate. This in our opinion made the actions of this dog team a clear winner.'
Anya was also nominated for The Crufts Friends for Life award which searches for Britain's ultimate four legged hero.