A new charity has been launched to help give retired police dogs a stable life after they leave the service of the force.
The organisation is the brainchild of West Yorkshire Police dog handler PC Duncan Matthews, from Wakefield, and the force’s chaplain the Reverend Paul Wilcock, who wanted to ensure that retired dogs were rewarded for their brave work in the field.
It is usually the case that the dog's handler is responsible for its care, vet bills and any other expenditure once the dog retires from the force, but the charity's two founders said they wanted to help ease the financial burden.
A key reason why so many owners struggle to look after the dogs when they retire is that insurance is difficult to get hold of, particularly for a dog that has spent much of its life in dangerous conditions.
Although purchasing premium dog food, bedding and other everyday essentials does not break the bank, the problem arises when an operation or treatment is needed and a vets bill of up to £2,500 is needed.
PC Matthews is one of 22 handlers across West Yorkshire alone who are responsible for caring for their former police dogs, and said his German Shepherd Kiro helped to inspire him to set up the charity.
He told the Wakefield Express: "A really close bond develops between officer and dog; they are like a best friend and part of the family, and when I get calls from officers saying they can’t afford vet bills for their much-loved dogs, it is heart-breaking.
"These dogs have had a hard-working life and you can’t get insurance for them because they are deemed high risk."
Sky News newsreader Kay Burton is a dog lover and has agreed to become patron of the charity - something that PC Matthews said will help to promote the organisation and boost awareness of the issue facing retired police dogs and their owners.
He concluded: "I never want an officer to have to be faced with that terrible decision of possibly having their dog, their best friend, put down."
Written by: Hannah