The charity giving a pension to retired police dogs

Retired police dog KatoRetired police dog Kato
Retired police dog Kato
"When they retire, they need a good home, they deserve a reward, and really, a pension.

"Because there isn't a pension, we replace that."

Retired Lancashire Police Dogs is a charity that has worked tirelessly across the county for 17 years, looking after police dogs retired from service due to illness, injury or age.

And it all began when a police dog handler broke down at Sheila Maw's kitchen table in Whalley.

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Sheila MawSheila Maw
Sheila Maw

How it all happened

Sheila, who has been a dog breeder and international judge, was a founding member of Lancashire Constabulary's welfare committee for animals set up by former Lancashire Chief Constable Pauline Clare following the death of a police dog from the Essex Constabulary during training.

Ms Clare had known Sheila since the 1980s, as one of the first people to volunteer as an independent custody visitor, going to police stations across the county, inspecting and interviewing those in custody.

So she was invited, along with another independent custody friend, to join the committee, and they formed pairs to carry out welfare checks on the county's police dogs.

Retired police dog ZeusRetired police dog Zeus
Retired police dog Zeus

"This 18st policeman was devastated"

"We didn't always see them in pairs", said Sheila.

"Very often when they were out, the handlers would call round at my house or my friend's house and ask us to have a look and sign the books.

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"In 2005 a policeman arrived for a coffee and the man was in tears.

Retired police dog ZorroRetired police dog Zorro
Retired police dog Zorro

"This 18 stone policeman was devastated because his police dog had to go, and I asked him what he meant.

"He said that it couldn't do the six foot jump anymore, and at that time, German Shepherds did have a problem with sloping backs.

"The dog was only six, but was no longer fit for duty."

She added: "He asked if I would go round to his house, and there we discussed the situation.

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Retired police dog CuzoRetired police dog Cuzo
Retired police dog Cuzo

"He had a mortgage, two kids, his own dog, cars to pay for, and there was absolutely no way he could afford to give that dog Metacam for the rest of its life, it's an expensive drug.

"The only thing we could do was to find that dog a decent home."

She added: "Another handler rang me within a week, asking why the hell couldn't the dog get a pension from the police force.

"He said he'd tried, but had been told there were no funds available and he wanted to know why someone wasn't doing something about it.

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"Well, when somebody says that to me, it's time for something to be done."

Sheila met with a friend, and together they formed a committee of 10.

Sheila has worked continually for the group, taking a slight back seat when her husband became ill, and is still chair today.

How much money do they need?

Last year the charity paid out £4,000 toward medical bills.

Members fundraise by attending fairs, running raffles, and have produced an annual calendar since 2010

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Show your support for Lancashire's retired police dogs - buy a 2023 calendar now

Sheila said "Most of them (the dogs) retire with a medical problem.

"Claims come through the dog handlers. If there's a bill to be paid, they pay it and invoice us.

During Covid we were paying 100 per cent, but we can't afford to do that at the moment, so it's currently 60 per cent."

"Covid really smacked us down", she said.

"The dogs were still there, but we weren't able to do any of our normal fundraising."

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Now registered with the charity commission, the group hopes that this will make it easier to attract certain funding streams.

They have also been working with 19 other constabularies, who have asked for advice on how to set up their own benevolent fund for retired police dogs.

Now in association with other charities across the country, and if there is an appeal for help, they all club together.

The dogs

The group is currently looking after eight to 10 dogs.

Most of them are retired to the handler that's had them.

"In a lot of cases, they've saved their handler's lives and they've had a bond over eight to 10 years, and you can't break that", Sheila said.

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Labradors and spaniels can go on until nine or 10 (sniffer, drugs, cadaver dogs).

German Shepherds tend to retire around the age of seven because of the hard work they do.

Sheila added: "We need them to feel that there's somewhere to go if times are tough.

"The dogs have spent their lives working for us, the public.

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"They have worked very hard catching criminals, sniffing out drugs, finding people, they do a tremendous amount of work and it's not recognised.

"When they retire, they need a good home, they deserve a reward, and really, a pension.

"Because there isn't a pension, we replace that."

How do donate

Write to:

Retired Lancashire Police Dogs,c/o Lancashire Police Dog Section,Lindle Lane,Preston,PR4 4AQOr telephone: 01254 824507

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