Police dog numbers axed in South Yorkshire

Police officer Den Worthington and dog Zac apprehend Richard Middleton during a demonstration
Police officer Den Worthington and dog Zac apprehend Richard Middleton during a demonstration

Crime fighting and safety concerns have been raised over plans to slash the number of police dogs and their handlers in South Yorkshire.

Police chiefs are to axe 11 handlers and remove a similar number of dogs from service.

They said some officers are due to retire and the rest will be redeployed into other frontline roles.

Bosses also stress that none of the dogs affected will be destroyed.

They said the move was needed to reduce costs and claim the new restructured unit, made up of 25 officers, would be a similar size to dog sections in neighbouring forces.

But Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: “Police dogs and their handlers are a vital part of the so called police frontline.

“They are always double crewed and can fight crime, search for missing people and keep fighting groups apart. They are a tremendous support to all other frontline uniform officers.

“Other forces have cut the numbers, realised their mistake and now are trying to recruit and train handlers again. This is another blow to the safety of our communities due to budget cuts.”

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Police dogs and their handlers provide a range of important roles in helping to keep the public safe and whilst we are reducing the size of the unit, it will continue to perform a valuable role for the public.

“Every police force is facing very significant challenges in operating with millions of pounds less every year but in a way that performance is enhanced and the service provided to the public continues to be of the highest standard.

“Suggestions that some of the police dogs will be put down are completely untrue. The force would never destroy a healthy dog. Equally, the force has not asked officers to return their dogs.”