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Byline: By Leah Oatway Wales on Sunday

Welsh police are recruiting cop dogs from England, Scotland and Belgium because our homegrown German Shepherds are too soft!

Breeders and owners outside of Wales are cashing in as South Wales, Gwent and North Wales Police forces fork out hundreds of pounds for Alsatian pups.

Dog handlers claim German Shepherds bred in Wales are 'too dopey'.

The shortage of hard-of-nails canines is also blamed on a national trend with Alsatians seen as unfashionable.

It's becoming a real headache for the police who have to pay up to pounds 250 for dogs outside of Wales to meet the demand for new anti-terror measures. South Wales Police, who need German Shepherds, Labradors and Spaniels, are now appealing for Welsh owners to volunteer their puppies for duty.

On the police website, the force begs for dogs with an ad saying: 'Wanted...male or female, of shaggy appearance, 2ft in height, around one year to 18 months, prominent ears...they could also be prone to the occasional dribble!'

Handler Pc Tim Yeo, from South Wales Police Dog Section, which also trains up puppies for the Prison and Fire Services, said: 'It sounds harsh but the Welsh dogs we are getting are just too dopey and nice. They're a bit like supermodels - they look fantastic but there's not a lot of substance there.'

Sergeant Jerry Warman, Gwent Police dog section supervisor, added: 'This is a national issue. The German Shepherd is the decathlete of the dog world but, like all things, dogs come in and out of fashion and I think the problem we are facing is they are no longer the dog of the moment. I have recently had to double the number of dog handlers in our section trained to detect explosives because of numerous anti-terrorism initiatives in South Wales.'

South Wales Police recently bought six German Shepherd dogs from a London dealer and two puppies from Scotland.

But they have to wait until the pups reach one year old to put them through weeks of training before they know whether they'll make effective sniffer dogs - a timely and expensive process.

Pc Yeo says they'll be lucky if three in 10 dogs prove suitable. Unsuitable dogs are re-housed.

Police dogs form essential parts of many investigations including missing persons, drug busts and bomb searches.

But in North Wales, appeals for dogs no longer go out.

Chief Inspector Mark Owen said: 'North Wales Police no longer takes donated dogs as we buy them direct from recognisable breeders in Belgium.

'We are moving from the German Shepherd dogs to the Belgian Shepherd dogs as they have proven to be far more suitable for our purposes.' Lazarus - it's a cop dog's life

age: 9

job: s Wales Police Dog

IN SERVICE: 7 years

BORN: Glasgow in 1994

TRAINING: A course for 13 weeks where I made friends with PC Justin Watts. I helped him pass the course.

WHAT I DO: I can track people so I can follow where they went after they did something wrong or I can find lost people. I can sniff out lost and stolen property. I can also bite people if they have done something wrong and run away from my handler.

WHY I LOVE MY JOB: I really like catching criminals.

ABOUT ME: I was quite a naughty puppy and I used to like chewing my owner's kitchen. I live with Justin. I have my own house in the garden where I can relax, rest, sunbathe and play with my friend Floyd, a Springer Spaniel. He is good fun but he gets on my nerves when he pinches my food. GREATEST CRIME BUSTING CANINES: Rin Tin Tin, a trained German Shepherd who was left behind by retreating German forces in 1918, was taken to America by a sergeant, where he went on to star in 122 films and a TV series

Dr Who's K-9. The faithful metal mutt first appeared as companion to the fourth Doctor in The Invisible Enemy

Hooch was Tom Hanks' sidekick in movie Turner and Hooch. The slobbery-mouthed dog is a witness to a murder - he dies protecting Turner but is survived by a litter of puppies. Aaaw.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 22, 2004
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