A BAND of volunteers have scooped a national award for helping prepare the West Midlands Police dogs of the future.
The force has a team of over 200 dog walkers who give up their time to help care for canine crime-fighters in the early stages of their lives.
Their determination saw the breed scheme volunteers receive the Police Support Volunteer Team prize at the recent Lord Ferrers Awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to volunteering in policing.
Some of the fully-vetted volunteers have been walking for more than 17 years and have helped over 60 pups.
Their roles have included puppy hand rearing, mentoring other walkers , kennel duties and supporting the force at events such as Crufts.
The puppy walkers also set up a retired benevolent fund, helping handlers pay for veterinary costs for retired police dogs.
West Midlands Police dogs unit, based in Balsall Common, has one of the largest breed schemes in the UK and manager Dave Raymond said: “All our walkers give up their own time and it would be impossible to do it without them.
“The walkers play a very important role in the dog’s life, exposing them to different environments and social surroundings in the most crucial development periods.
“They follow a puppy training guide and attend training sessions at the kennels at Balsall Common. It can be very time consuming caring for a puppy and the national award for their efforts is very well-deserved.”
At six months old, the puppies go through an assessment lasting half-a-year at the dogs unit to see if they have what it takes to become fully operational, effective police dogs.
If successful, they return to their puppy walkers for another few months before undergoing the final assessment stage and being assigned to a police handler ready to begin serious training.
Volunteer Louise Stokes said: “It is really satisfying to play a part in helping crime-fighting police dogs of the future.
“These pups can go on to eventually track down criminals and make our streets safer.
“It is a real team effort involving all the volunteers and wonderful recognition of everyone’s contribution to raising a confident, well balanced police dog.”
Anyone aged over 18 can apply to be a puppy walker but must live within the West Midlands or on the very outskirts of the region.
For more information email the firstname.lastname@example.org to register.