AS PENSION pots shrink, many people are facing an uncertain retirement – and Cheshire Constabulary’s retired police dogs are no exception.
But a team of volunteers has made it their mission to give the plucky pooches the retirement they deserve.
Last year police handler Samantha Nevitt set up Cheshire Retired Police Dog Benevolent Fund to help cover the cost of caring for the force’s unsung heroes.
“The dogs have dedicated their lives to protecting the people of Cheshire,” said Samantha, whose springer spaniel Toby works as a drugs dog.
“A lot of people think the police continue paying for them and when you do tell them it comes as quite a shock.”
While working, dogs are trained and looked after by qualified handlers, with vet, food and kenneling costs covered by the force.
But when their canine colleagues are no longer fit for duty, handlers take on full financial responsibility for the dogs – whose active careers have often left them with injuries or arthritis requiring expensive medical care.
Dog handler and instructor PC Alan Friday juggles caring for eight-year-old retired German Shepherd Prince – who suffers from spinal problems – with training working dog Ingo.
He said: “It takes up a lot of your time. You pretty much plan your whole life around your dogs.
“When they get to that age, the cost just spirals. The main issue is once the dog retires you just can’t get insurance. There’s no way because the dog has been trained to bite.
“There’s no obligation, but I’ve never known a handler not take on a dog. It’s become part of their family.”
Cheshire Constabulary employs 20 handlers and 40 dogs. Most are general purpose German Shepherds, specialising in searching for missing people or criminals.
The force also has nine drugs detection dogs – usually Spaniels, Labradors or Collies – and six explosives detection dogs.
Suitable dogs are selected after public appeals or adopted from shelters, before undergoing a thorough training course.
PC Greg Cross’s German Shepherd Hunter, seven, is trained to support the police’s firearm team. He is set to retire in April.
PC Cross admits the impact will be ‘massive’, but has no intention of giving Hunter up - despite already training his next working dog, nine-month -old Kai.
“Hunter was my first dog. He’s worked with me since he was 15 months old. He’s still very good at what he does,” he said.
Sgt Louise Deung, from the force’s police dog unit at police headquarters in Winsford, said she hoped the Fund would raise awareness.
“The dogs have had such an active life they generally end up with lots of problems. It’s a big responsibility for the handlers to take on, but they do.”
The fund will host its first fundraising ball on Friday, September 30, at Chester Racecourse. Tickets are £45 each.
Preparations are also under way for a 2012 police dog calendar, after last year’s sold more than 600 copies.
For more information or to book tickets, visit www.retiredcheshirepolicedogs.co.uk, visit retiredcheshirepolicedogs @yahoo.co.uk or call Barbara on 07742983737.