Derbyshire’s Dog Section takes delivery of protective harnesses
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Our dogs are a vital part of the police service we provide, and to our handlers they are family.
From this week, all of Derbyshire Constabulary's general purpose and firearms support dogs will have extra protection from harm whilst on duty, thanks to protective harnesses issued to each one.
The specialist canine equipment is designed to protect them not only against knives, bladed weapons and ballistics, but from physical assault and blunt impact. They will also keep them safe from day-to-day risks on their varied deployments, such as cuts from barbed wire and rusty nails, balancing protection without hindering the dogs operationally.
In 2018, Derbyshire’s PD Axle hit the headlines after being stabbed three times as he chased and caught a man in Riddings, Derbyshire. Axle required life-saving surgery from which he recovered and returned to full-time duty for a further year before retiring in November 2019. Since then, ‘Finn’s Law’ has been passed by parliament, making it a criminal offence to injure service animals, including police dogs.
Welcoming the provision of the harnesses, Chief Constable Rachel Swann said “Our Police Dogs play a vital role in Derbyshire Constabulary, supporting our officers in dealing with a range of difficult and challenging situations. The dogs working within Derbyshire Constabulary do such a fantastic job and really are part of our policing family, that is why I am so pleased to say that we are now able to provide them with stab vests to ensure that their safety is treated as a priority.”
Handler PC Blaine Molloy has driven the force’s project to obtain the harnesses for our dogs. He knew the kit had to be fit for purpose, meeting the comfort and needs of the working dogs as a priority, as well as the practical requirements of the handler and trainer. He did extensive market research looking for the best option and pulled together a business case to protect the dogs that protect us.
The Hurricane harnesses are designed and manufactured by Rochdale-based company Defence Composites. The vests are lightweight and are made to the same Home Office standards as those worn by police officers. They also have temperature-regulating technology originally developed and used by NASA.
PC Molloy has worked closely with the manufacturer to adapt the harness for our general-purpose dogs, adding release clips on the front/neck area for easy fitting, two additional grab handles and MOLLE heavy-duty nylon webbing on top. This webbing could potentially enable a firearms dog to carry a video camera, expanding our operational strategy.
Blaine explains that it gives him comfort that his dog has the same standard of protective vest that he has as an officer: “If you’re going to put a police dog in a situation where they may potentially have to lay down their life for you or a member of the public, they need to be protected.
“These harnesses give what is called multi-threat protection – against any slash, stab, spike and short-barrelled ballistics. They also protect against the dangers our dogs face every day such as punches and kicks.”
The harnesses cost just over £1,000 each and are guaranteed for 10 years.
“When you weigh up cost of the harnesses against the cost of the vets bills - which can run into the thousands should the worst ever happen - the harnesses pay for themselves. In addition, you as a handler feel a bit more secure knowing your best mate is protected.”
Chief Inspector David Nicholls, who leads the force’s Dog Section echoes Blaine’s thoughts: “It is so important that we do everything we can to protect our working dogs, which is why we took the decision to issue each of them with a protective vest. We all saw the horrendous injuries suffered by PD Axle in the line of duty and we never want to be in that position again. Our dogs are part of our policing family and whilst they are working dogs they are very much loved. This is a great step forward for us to ensure they are as safe as possible while protecting the people and streets of Derbyshire.”
Craig Mills, Managing Director of Defence Composites has also welcomed the partnership: “Defence Composites Ltd are thrilled to have been able to develop a protective harness for police dogs. Years of expertise in the body armour industry has enabled us to adapt our products to also protect the lives of the working canines in the UK. As a priority the comfort and needs of the working dog have been met as well as the practical requirements of the handler and trainer.”