Police Dog Welfare Scheme: Volunteers playing their part in Hertfordshire
There are many ways that people in Hertfordshire can play their part in keeping the county safe and the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, is keen for as many people as possible to get involved.
The Police Dog Welfare Scheme has a small group of independent volunteers who perform checks on the dogs that work with police in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.
The volunteers check the physical condition of the animals and quiz their handler’s about the dog’s health and wellbeing.
John Sterling, a retired company executive from Aldenham, is one of the volunteers currently working in the scheme and says that being a police dog welfare volunteer is a great way to “give something back” to the local community.
“My wife and I have owned Alsatians for many years,” said John, pictured above with David Lloyd. “I wanted to put something back into the community. I’ve tried other ways of doing that but this is the way I like the most. I like to be active and this provides that. There isn’t a great deal of paperwork. You have to be committed but it is not a great drain on time. Give me a good reason why not to do it!”
The volunteers inspect the dogs during training sessions and at specific locations. They examine the animal’s condition and its movements to check that the dog is not carrying any injuries or has been mistreated in any way. John said that he “had never seen anything that the handler had not pointed out beforehand and was already being dealt with under veterinary care.”
The police vehicles in which the dogs are transported around in are also checked for their suitability and that they are being appropriately maintained. The role also involves speaking to the handlers themselves about the dogs’ welfare.
The volunteers must be updated on the welfare of the dog should anything significant happen to them and they can even ask to see veterinary records of the dogs.
Any concerns that they find are referred back to the Inspector in the Tri-Force Dog Unit, who is required to take immediate action.
All of the dogs working within the unit are visited on a regular basis. The role involves travelling but usually inspections are arranged at times and places that are at the visitors’ convenience.
The three force areas would ideally have six volunteers; currently there are two and two more have just been recruited. John says has owned dogs for many years but that alone does not make you ideal for the role.
“Just being a ‘doggy person’ doesn’t necessarily make you right for a role like this. There is a vetting and interview process to make sure that volunteers are suitable and then once accepted, training is provided for them when they start.”
“While the volunteers are not the only safeguard against the abuse of police dogs, it is still an important role because it provides independent scrutiny for the dog unit so we know that they are being treated appropriately.”
Police and Crime Commissioners have responsibility for the volunteers and because the Dog Unit is collaborated across the three counties, Commissioner Lloyd is leading for all three force areas. The records from the visits are administered and overseen by his office.
Commissioner Lloyd launched his Volunteer Strategy for the county during National Volunteering Week in June in order to highlight the number of ways that people can get involved and the positive impact they have when they do.
“As both a proud dog owner and someone who believes that volunteering is key to making Hertfordshire a better and safer place, I am pleased to be leading the police dog welfare scheme for the three counties,” the Commissioner said.
“The police dog welfare volunteers play a small but important role in making sure that police dogs are well cared for and being kept in appropriate conditions.”
He added: “There are many ways you can give your time to help make where you live a better place, even if you have only a small amount of time to spare every month. These volunteering opportunities can vary from getting involved with Neighbourhood Watch to tackling speeding with a DriveSafe scheme to becoming a Special Constable.
“If you’re interested in volunteering for the dog welfare role, should a suitable position become available, please also contact my office and we will keep your details on file.”
Anyone interested in any other kinds of volunteering can visit www.herts.police.uk/volunteers or http://www.hertscommissioner.org/ for more information and ideas.
You can contact Commissioner Lloyd’s office by email:  commissioner@herts.pnn.police.uk or by phone: 01707 806100 or by post: Harpenden Police Station, 15 Vaughan Road, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 4GZ. 
You can also follow the Commissioner on Twitter @HertsPCC and find out more about his work on the Facebook page: HertsPCC