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Puppies groomed to give crooks 'paws' for thought; CANINE RECRUITS.

Byline: Mark Cowan

THEY may look cute and cuddly now - but in the next 18 months these German Shepherd pups could be pounding the streets of the West Midlands.

The 'P' litter - including Punk, Pharaoh, Pixie and Petal - are the latest to have been born to the West Midlands Police dog breeding scheme.

Just five months old, they are already being groomed for life on the beat.

And fully grown, they will be sure to make crooks 'paws' for thought.

Those that make it as canine crime-fighters will follow a long line of police service dogs stretching back 60 years.

It was in May 1951 that the first two dogs, Kim and Flash, were recruited into the former Birmingham City Police.

Like many other police forces in the UK, city officers only really started using dogs after the end of the Second World War, when it was realised that trained dogs using their natural instincts could play a major role in maintaining law and order and apprehending offenders. Trained in London, the two dogs first patrolled the streets of Birmingham on Christmas Eve of 1951.

In 1960 a trophy, named after Kim, was introduced and is still competed for annually by all handlers and their dogs in the West Midlands.

Following on from this early success, in January 1952 two more dogs and handlers were selected and sent to Imber Court, in London, for training.

From those humble beginnings, the Dog Section began to grow and in 1959 moved into a farmhouse in the grounds of Harborne Golf Club for the princely sum of two pounds and ten shillings a week.

With the creation of West Midlands Police in 1974, the dog section had 100 handlers.

They moved into the new home, and current site at Balsall Common, in Solihull, in 1995 and they have thrived.

Dogs bred at the centre have been sold to 34 police forces, the Ministry of Defence and Prison Service and West Midlands Police is becoming a popular provider of working animals.

Insp Russ Evans said volunteer puppy walkers would help the dogs acclimatise to life outdoors before they were assessed at about eight months old prior to beginning proper training.

"If we didn't have the puppy walkers, we wouldn't have the breeding scheme," he said.

"We haven't got the facilities here to cater for the number of dogs that are born and they wouldn't get the proper environmental training that they need. "They do a fantastic job."

CAPTION(S):

Puppy power: The 'P' litter of German Shepherd puppies - destined to be the next generation of canine crimefighters - at West Midlands police dog training centre at Balsall Common, in Solihull. Pictures: Neil Pugh
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 7, 2011
Words:448
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