Meet Gloucestershire police's hairy hero Barney - a crime fighting machine
WITH his tail permanently set to wag, you could be forgiven for thinking this chocolate-eyed springer spaniel was a big softy.
But do not be fooled because Barney is a crime-fighting machine.
As a member of Gloucestershire Constabulary, it is his business to sniff out drugs, firearms, explosives, dirty cash and the criminals behind them.
The four-year-old works alongside his German shepherd pal, Duke, who is trained to bite and bark on command.
Both hairy heroes are owned by police dog handler PC Claire Todd, who said they were chosen to become police dogs because of their undying love for toys.
"Everything my dogs do is for a toy," she said. "They just see it as fun – they don’t realise how important their job is."
Supported by 17 police dog handlers, the force has a total of 19 German shepherds and spaniels.
The dogs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are trained to search for people, drugs, cash, firearms and explosives. They also search property, track down offenders, can disarm a criminal carrying a weapon, protect innocent people and are used for crowd control.
This month, PC Todd took Barney down to Corin Ltd in Cirencester to put him through his paces.
The medical manufacturing company has volunteered its warehouses and offices on the Love Lane Industrial Estate to the police as a dog training location.
PC Todd said that the force was always on the lookout for fresh environments to challenge the dogs’ skills.
"If we use the same training venues day in day out then the dogs get used to it," she said. "The more locations we have the better."
Corin project manager Mike Harding said the company was only too happy to let the dogs in to sniff around.
"Corin’s been in Cirencester for the best part of 30 years and we always try to integrate ourselves with charities and things that are going on in the area," he said and joked, "hopefully they won't find anything they shouldn't."
To test Barney, PC Todd hid a bag of heroin between raised stacked boxes in a warehouse.
Not distracted by the bemused workers, the spaniel was soon on the drug's scent and within minutes gave a bark and froze by where the bag had been hidden.
With his paw raised, pointing towards the stash, Barney stayed rooted to the spot until PC Todd activated a clicker.
At that point he rushed back for the reward of a simple tennis ball.
"They love working and they just love to please," PC Todd said.
Earlier this year, Barney sniffed out a kilogram of stimulant drug mephedrone, commonly called MCat or miaow miaow, during a warrant on a Tewkesbury home. The pills were hidden in the loft and the spaniel detected the smell through the pipes of a boiler on the first floor.
"His nose is amazing," PC Todd said. "His sense of smell is two million times greater that ours, so he is an invaluable member of the force."
She added that while police dogs were trained to deal with criminals, they were also used to find missing people so it was important that they were friendly with the ability to "step it up" when needed.
To offer a police dog training venue, ring Gloucestershire police on 101.