Years spent chasing criminals and searching for explosive devices can lead to police dogs experiencing painful and costly medical conditions in retirement. Now a new charity is being launched to support dogs who have completed their service with British Transport Police (BTP).
The Railway Dogs Benevolent Fund will help to pay for ongoing medical care so canine crime fighters can enjoy a long and happy retirement.
With 54 dogs, BTP’s Dog Section is one of the largest in Britain. The force has 32 general purpose dogs and 22 specialist search dogs.
When police dogs retire, all costs relating to their health and welfare become the responsibility of the owner; usually, the handler who takes the dog on as a family pet. Vet bills can be extremely costly, and it is difficult to obtain adequate pet insurance cover because of pre-existing ailments, injuries sustained at work and conditions related to the dangerous nature of policing.
PC Paul Wood, Harriet Andrews, DCC Adrian Hanstock, PC Tom Davies
BTP officer PC Paul Wood played a crucial role in setting up the fund after losing his police dog to a serious illness last year. German Shepherd Luka developed a severe bacterial infection in his nose which began attacking his immune system. Several courses of medication didn’t improve Luka’s health, and he was referred for a scan. A week later his condition deteriorated suddenly.
Having already spent £1000 on treatment, and facing a bill for a further £3700, it was a race against time for PC Wood to find the money. Essex Retired Police Dog Fund came to his aid but sadly it was too late for Luka and he passed away in June.
PC Paul Wood
PC Wood said:
“Luka was with me every day of his working life and we had an incredible bond. When he retired with cruciate ligament disease, there was no doubt in my mind that he would continue to live with me. He was part of my family and I was heartbroken to lose him.”
“Following the amazing response and assistance I received from Essex Retired Dog Fund, I was determined that we should have our own charity to assist all retired working dogs associated with the Transport Police and I am extremely pleased that we have been able to get the fund up on its feet. It’s been a year in the development and will be a much needed, worthwhile and important charity.”
The Railway Dogs Benevolent Fund will help police dogs enjoy the retirement they deserve and lessen the financial burden on their owners, particularly in cases like Luka’s when urgent medical treatment was needed.
It is run by a team of dedicated volunteers including two police dog handlers. They intend to organise regular fundraising events and sell merchandise including a police dog calendar. The charity’s ambassador is the actress, Debbie Arnold.
PC Tom Davies and police puppy Millie; Ambassador Debbie Arnold; DCC Adrian Hanstock; PC Angie Spittlehouse with recently retired police dog Robbie; Mr Martin Wilson who has adopted retired police dog Rufus
Ms Arnold said:
“I feel it’s very important that after they have served their country, these dogs should be entitled to a really fantastic retirement. This fund will ensure a dog never has to go without treatment because there isn’t enough money available.”
“Having been trained by the best they deserve to be treated by the best and enjoy a happy, healthy retirement.”
BTP has a long history of using working dogs, having been the first police force in the UK to do. A commemorative plaque has recently been displayed at Hull Docks in honour of police dogs Jim, Vic, Mick and Ben. In 1908 they patrolled with officers of the North Eastern Railway Police (which became part of BTP).
There are currently 22 retired BTP dogs living with their former handlers or adopted families.
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said:
“Not being able to predict the care a dog may need is worrying for our officers, especially if the dog should develop a critical illness.
“I don’t want our handlers ever to doubt they can look after their dogs or have access to funds if they fall ill.
“Setting up a benevolent fund helps remove that doubt and provides enduring support for working dogs that have protected the public throughout their working life.”
Police dogs generally retire around the age of 9, which means most will work for eight years.
During that time, they are assigned to one handler with whom they live and work.
If a dog is injured, falls ill or is unable to perform the tasks they are trained for they may retire sooner.