Unwanted dogs are being trained to help people with disabilities by alerting emergency services to fires or medical problems in their homes.
Emergency response dogs react to the smell of smoke, sound of smoke alarms or their owner's medical symptoms. In a fire they trigger a call to the fire brigade, close any open doors, lay towels to stop smoke spreading and stay by their owners until help arrives.
South Yorkshire's Personal Assistance Dogs charity has devised the training. The charity's founder Val Strong said there had been a gap in the market for people who needed a dog to perform emergency responses for them and they had worked with the South Yorkshire Fire Service to address it.
"There are a lot of people out there that probably would not be able to vacate their property should there be a fire," she said. As well as contacting the fire service by pushing an emergency button, we can also hardwire a different emergency cord to paramedics that the dogs can activate by pulling a string. All the dogs are rescued dogs so unwanted dogs are becoming a lifeline for vulnerable people," Ms Strong added. "They could absolutely be life-savers."
The dogs are selected from council strays of any breed, aged between six months and two years, and take up to 10 months to train and match with their new owners.
The charity is working in conjunction with social services and the fire service to find those most in need of the dogs' assistance.
South Yorkshire's chief fire officer Mark Smitherman said they were thrilled to welcome the dogs onto their team to keep local communities safe.
"Dogs have proven themselves as man's best friend time and time again," he said. We look forward to working in partnership with these dogs, and their trainers, to help vulnerable people be safe and secure in their own homes."