The lightweight armour is custom-made to better protect police dogs – both general purpose dogs and drugs dogs – and will give them protection against knives, bullets, spikes and impact from blunt objects.
The armour was chosen after the force evaluated different types – for their protection level, durability and design. They have been produced following feedback from extensive trials conducted by UK police forces.
The chosen design had to make sure the comfort and needs of the police dogs were met, as a priority, as well as the practical requirements of the handler and trainer. The armour comes in different sizes and has a special material in its lining, that helps dissipate heat away from the dog’s body, which was originally designed for use in space suits.
The rollout comes after ‘Finn’s Law’ (Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act) legislation was introduced in June 2019. German Shepherd Finn was stabbed in the head and chest as he protected PC Dave Wardell from a knife-wielding robbery suspect in Stevenage in 2016. The legislation makes it harder for those who harm service animals to claim they were acting in self-defence. Under the previous law, the attack on Finn could only be treated as criminal damage.
Chief Inspector Dave Kelsall, Head of the force’s Armed/Dog Support Unit, said: “Police dogs are part of our policing family, one of the team and as such should be seen and valued the same as our police officers. This is why Staffordshire Police, along with our national colleagues, gave our police dogs collar numbers.
“Providing personal issue body armour is the next step to ensuring we protect our dogs who face the same dangers as our police handlers, and, in fact, are more than likely the first ones running towards the threat. They now have the same level of protection in order to reduce the risk of serious injury or worse, being killed in the line of duty.
“This is a proud moment for me and I am grateful for the investment by Staffordshire Police and hard work by the dog support officers in the work to find the right kit.”