It was a day of celebration for the Tri-force Police Dogs unit yesterday after five dogs completed their initial search dog course.
Fred, Mo, Ace, Jim and Shelby, along with their handlers PC’s Nick Dalrymple, Shelley Byrne, Ben Hall, Cindy Hargreave and Ian Grant, have all passed the eight week intensive course and will now put their new found skills into practice across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset as part of the Tri-force operations.
To mark the end of their course, the group were paid a visit by Wiltshire Police Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Kier Pritchard who presented the handlers with certificates.
He told the group: “I’m sure there has been plenty of blood, sweat and tears over the past eight weeks but the role you do is absolutely critical and the difference you make on a day-to day basis is really very impressive.
“It is clear to see that you are all so passionate about your vocation and you have worked so hard to get to where you are. It is a 24-hour a day job and I am so impressed with the work you do.
“The searching capability of your dogs is invaluable to the Force and the need for these skills has never been more critical.
“The public are so supportive of you, they are so inspired by everything you do and it is clear to see.
“It is a real pleasure to come and close the course – well done to everyone involved.”
The group were trained by instructors Pete Moseley and Glyn Jones from Avon and Somerset.
Pete said: “If we don’t use the dogs to search, then it is down to us and it’s far safer to use the dogs. If we are searching for something, we have to disturb everything in the room, whereas the dog samples the air.”
Glyn added: “It all starts with finding the dogs – some are rescue dogs, some are donated by the public and all of these dogs that have passed the course are aged between 12 and 18 months. We choose the dogs that are absolutely mad about a toy or a ball. They have to have the drive to play with a ball – if they are obsessed with a ball and love to play with it then generally they will make a good search dog.
“The dogs spend the eight weeks training to sniff out certain substances, often in very small quantities. They don’t all make it to the end of the course, it is a very intense eight weeks.”
The work the dogs can expect to be involved in could range dramatically, but will often focus on preventative work, such as security searches ahead of a VIP visit.
Police dog handler Ian Grant, whose dog is called Shelby, said: “It’s a great job. You’ve got to have a good relationship with them, they become part of your family and you see more of them than you do your actual family.
“They love doing the job, you can see it in their eyes. If they were scared they wouldn’t be police dogs – everything they do is in the hope that they get to have their ball at the end of the day.”