Thirteen weeks of intense training culminated in a day of celebration and pride today as four newly qualified General Purpose Police Dogs were welcomed into the Tri-Force Specialist Operations Dog Unit.
Quest, Molly, Marlow and Fozzy, and their handlers, PC Claire Todd, PC Lenny Mansell and PC Shane Collins of Gloucestershire Constabulary and PC Simon Goodwin of Wiltshire Police all successfully completed the training course and received their licences today.
The dogs are now ready to embark on their first shifts as they begin their careers protecting the communities of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset.
To mark the end of their course, the group were paid a visit by Superintendent Mark Sellers, Head of Force Operations at Wiltshire Police, who presented the handlers with their certificates.
He said: “I cannot underestimate how challenging this course is and I am full of admiration for these handlers and their dogs for what they have achieved. “
The course was led by Avon and Somerset Constabulary Instructors Gary Isom and Guy Williams.
“The handlers and their dogs have been very committed, hard-working, dedicated – they’ve given 100 per cent every day and that is evident in how well the dogs have done,” said Gary.
Tri-force Dogs Inspector Dave Eddy said: “This is one of the first examples of a Tri-force collaboration for the Dog Unit – we’ve had dogs and handlers from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire being trained by two members of Avon & Somerset Constabulary. It’s a great example of borderless, joined-up working. It’s been a real pleasure to watch the dogs develop over the last 13 weeks and to now have them ready to be fully operational is just brilliant.”
During the 13 weeks, the dogs are tested on a variety of areas, including obedience, agility, tracking, searching and crowd control.
Now they are qualified, they can expect to be called upon to assist in a wide variety of incidents, from burglaries to disorders, football games and searches for missing people.
PC Claire Todd, whose German Shepherd Quest will now work in partnership with her specialist police dog Stella the Staffie, said: “I’ve wanted to be a dog handler since I was 11 – it is the reason I joined the police force.
“A good police dog must have high drive, be fearless and have lots of courage.
“It’s just such a rewarding job – especially when you find somebody or something that you would never have found without the dog, it makes it all seem worthwhile and you feel so proud as you develop such a close bond with them.
“The course has been really hard work – being a dog handler is a lifestyle, not just a job, it’s a
real personal commitment, but I really enjoy it.
“The dogs are our best friends, our family members and our protectors.”
The four dogs are all aged 18 months – the average age for a police dog to retire is approximately eight-years-old.
And it’s not just fighting crime that lies ahead for the dogs – members of the unit will be making an appearance at Paws on Patrol in Gloucester Park on 7 May and the Royal Bath and West Show on 1 – 4 June, amongst many other events due to be scheduled later this year.