POLICE DOGS are to be bred using artificial insemination to ensure that they are faster, stronger and have a better sense of smell, under plans drawn up by senior officers. The aim is ultimately a ‘Super Police Dog’ that excels on all levels.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is to search for canine sperm donors across Europe to breed dogs that are suited for crowd control, and drug and bomb detection.
It will be the first national – or indeed international - breeding programme for working police dogs. Individual constabularies at present train animals donated by welfare charities and owners, but only one in 11 has the right temperament.
Barbara Wilding, the association's spokesperson on police dogs and Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "Nationally, we are experiencing difficulties obtaining good quality dogs for the wide range of police work. We will establish if a national breeding programme could be feasible using artificial insemination, utilising not only British but also European donors."
There are about 2,000 working police dogs in Britain, according to official figures. German Shepherds tend to be used for daily police work, while Spaniels and Labradors are used to find explosives or drugs because of their acute sense of smell.
Five of Britain's 43 forces, including the Metropolitan and West Midlands forces, have small-scale breeding programmes, but none use artificial insemination as a means to further these programmes.
Most constabularies are short of dogs. North Wales police recently bought dogs from Belgium at £250 for a German Shepherd puppy because they could not find any in Britain.
Serving dog handlers have praised the plans. PC Stuart McKie, a dog handler for Stratchclyde Police, said that he favoured the idea. He handles Rogie, an eight-year-old English Springer Spaniel, which was donated from a dogs' home seven years ago.
"Using artificial insemination sounds like a good idea. Dogs that were unwanted do come with a lot of baggage. They can be difficult to train and have behavioural problems if they have been mistreated by a previous owner," he said.
Animal welfare charities are concerned, however, that a national breeding programme could increase the number of unwanted dogs in Britain.
Chris Laurence, the veterinary director of The Dogs Trust, Britain's largest canine charity, said: "The big problem will come if they produce dogs through a breeding programme that are not suitable for police work. What will happen then?"
A spokesman for Battersea Dogs’ Home said: "I would prefer it if they took dogs from us."