Sarah Marles a.k.a. Mrs PAWS- Owner at Paws Adventure Walking Services.
It was only a couple of weekends ago that I settled myself down on the sofa and enjoyed the grand final of one of my favourite shows, Britain's Got Talent 2019. Ever since Pudsey the dog won the show in 2012, I've always hoped to see another dog reach the final, and so this year was a treat. To see such a beautiful, heroic and loyal animal get so far in the competition was amazing, and Finn the police dog brought me and the nation to absolute tears with his incredible bravery and amazing magical talents. Finn was stabbed whilst trying to protect his handler in 2016 and suffered almost fatal wounds, the assailant received a mere slap on the wrist with only 8 months in a juvenile offenders institution. Finn's runner up position in the show, did nothing to diminish the effect he and his handler Dave Wardell had on the nation and the knock on effect was that hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition to demand that police dogs were given protection and recognised as serving members if assaulted in the line of duty.
After months of delays as the proposed bill slowly passed through the system, the petition undoubtedly added more pressure onto the government to act and thankfully on June 8th 2019 Finn's Law finally came into force. This means that it now a criminal offence to injure or kill a service animal, which carries a heightened sentence and gives added protection to service dogs and horses.
So this got me thinking about a police dog related theory that I have had in my head for a number of years. I've always found it fascinating how dog breed popularity goes through trends. Round my way, when I was young the dog to have at the end of a lead was a Doberman Pincer or Rottweiler if you had a score to settle (in your own head) or a property to defend, and the everyday family dog was what we used to call a Mongrel or a Heinz 57 dog, (nowadays these cross breed dogs are called shitzapoos.....I kid you not, or springerdors or labradoodles), and today, the dog to have at the end of a lead if you've a score to settle is a Staffie or Bulldog cross. Now before all you Staffie/ Bull breed lovers jump on my words with venom and tell me that you have a Staffie purely because you LOVE the breed...... I hear you! I was a bull breed owner myself who doted on my beautiful strong, amazing dog. I loved her look, her beauty and her strength and she lived a blissfully happy life with me into her old age ( I still miss her 3 years after losing her....the love never fades).
My point is, that unfortunately nowadays, because this breed type has strength and agility, a muscular build and unending loyalty to their human, this type of dog often gets into the wrong hands and often sadly get abandoned or becomes unwanted, with only the lucky ones ending up in rescue centres up and down the country. This mixed bull breed of dog now makes up more than 80% of dogs in animal shelters nationwide and the numbers are not slowing down. It's highly unlikely that all these dogs will be successfully rehomed due mainly to their sheer numbers, and many are unfortunately destroyed to make room for the never ending stream of strays. My thoughts therefore, to help improve this situation and to help these dogs being so attractive to the 'wrong type of people' is for the police to start training and using bull breeds as future police dogs. They would certainly make amazing partners in anti-crime; they are strong and athletic, fiercely loyal, clever and agile but the huge advantage for the dogs themselves is that if the police force were to roll out a national Staffordshire Bull Terrier police dog training programme, this breed would soon fall out of favour with the riff raff, and they would no longer be 'the breed' to have if you want to look tough.
My friends in the dog world will tell you that I've held this theory for many a year and have never been sure how to get momentum behind the idea, and so have been pleased to see recently that in some areas of the UK this notion is coming to fruition, with some forces taking Staffie's under their wing, rescuing them from shelters, and training them up with success. The first success story being ' Cooper' who now works for Staffordshire Police as a sniffer dog. He was rescued by Staffordshire Police after spending 7 months in a rescue centre unwanted and facing an uncertain future. Now he works as part of a dedicated team, serving and protecting the public and thanks to Finn's Law now has increased protection and recognition as a serving animal. I think that is a brilliant outcome for Cooper and hope that in the next 10 years we will see a rising trend in Staffie/ Bull breed police dogs and a lowering trend in so many of these beautiful, loving and super clever dogs ending up in rescue centres.
Just for the record, my bull breed cross Bebe was a rescue and an amazing dog through and through, she brought love into my life on a daily basis and back then, the situation in her rescue centre was similar to now.....full of similar breeds looking for love and being overlooked. I adopted her in 2005 and Copper the police dog was rescued in 2018, that's very slow progress for a breed that deserves so much more credit and recognition.