Proving that the welfare of Gloucestershire Constabulary’s animals is of great importance, the Force has adopted a new animal welfare scheme to better ensure that police dogs are trained and cared for in a humane, ethical and transparent way.
The introduction of the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme has been driven by Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl through his Police and Crime Plan commitment to ‘A compassionate approach’ alongside Chief Constable Rod Hansen, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for police dogs and mounted policing.
The project allows for independent members of the public to visit police dog training centres, accommodation and police stations to observe, comment and report on the conditions under which police dogs are housed, trained and transported. It will cover anyone who interacts with police dogs, such as the trainers, handlers and kennel staff. The scheme has already appointed its first independent visitor — Peter Webster will be the volunteer coordinator.
Led by the national charity Dogs Trust, the PCC and Chief Constable have contributed towards a new booklet detailing how the scheme will work. Gloucestershire PC Mark Avery and retired Sgt Geoff Blindell from the Constabulary’s dog section also acted as consultants to ensure that operational policing was accurately reflected.
Gloucestershire Constabulary is looking for volunteers to inspect the welfare of police dogs.
Posted by Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire on Tuesday, 4 February 2020
In addition to rolling out the scheme in Gloucestershire, the county’s police horses and dogs will be given their own ID cards and collar numbers in line with the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019 – also known as Finn’s Law after Hertfordshire police dog, PD Finn, who was seriously injured in the line of duty. It defines service animals as ‘sentient beings’ rather than ‘assets’, making it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a service animal.
PCC Mr Surl said: “I am proud that Gloucestershire has been able to make a valuable contribution to the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme booklet, and that we will be one of many forces to adopt the scheme.
“Our police dogs are loved and valued very much by the public and make a significant contribution to front line policing. They risk harm on a regular basis to keep their handlers and the public safe, and they deserve the highest standards of care whether they are on or off duty”.
Louise Crawford, Dogs Trust Animal Welfare Scheme Coordinator said: “Dogs Trust, the largest dog welfare charity in the UK, is delighted to have worked with the Gloucestershire Constabulary dog section to produce the Animal Welfare Scheme Booklet.
“Dogs Trust works with many UK Police forces, advising them on best practice and training in adopting the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme, so it’s fantastic that Gloucestershire Constabulary is on board. The scheme aims to ensure the highest welfare and treatment of police dogs and we would encourage all police forces to join. For more information please email Louise Crawford at AnimalWelfareScheme@dogstrust.org.uk”
Dogs Trust manages the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme nationally, while locally it will be managed by the Chief Constable, and the PCC will be responsible for the selection of the Independent Visitors.
Mr Hansen said: “As national lead for police dogs, I often hear incredible accounts of the difference our brave service animals make providing protection, catching criminals and finding missing people, and I welcome the checks and balances put in place by the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme to ensure their well-being and protection.
“Independent scrutiny is something all forces have benefitted from over the years and our partnership with Dogs Trust and the Independent Visitors who give up their time voluntarily for the scheme is important to its success.”
If you’re interested in becoming an Independent Visitor for the scheme, please contact us here