Meet the latest weapons in the war against crime in South Yorkshire – these adorable furballs.
The tiny four-week-old German Shepherd puppies will eventually be on the frontline helping police officers to search for offenders and control crowds at large-scale events, including football matches.
But before the police pooches begin their training programmes they need to be named – and police chiefs are asking for suggestions for the six-strong litter.
Hundreds of ideas have already been put forward – with the deadline at 5pm today.
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The only stipulation is that each name for the three bitches and three dogs must begin with the letter ‘M’.
Handlers and staff at South Yorkshire Police’s dog unit will choose and announce the winning names on Friday.
Police dog instructor Dennis Metcalf said the pups would be trained to become vital frontline resources for South Yorkshire Police.
They will be reared in homes across South Yorkshire for the first 12 months of their lives before being assigned to dog handlers and trained for work – ready to join the 25 other general work dogs, eight drug dogs, two body recovery dogs and two explosives dogs the force already has.
Dennis, who had five German Shepherds and two Springer Spaniels during the 22 years he spent as a dog handler, said: “Police dogs are on the frontline with their handlers and are a real necessity.
“When somebody runs into a wood and can’t be picked up by the helicopter a dog will be sent in, will track the scent and will locate who we are looking for - that’s just one of the examples of how we use them and how valuable they are to us.
“South Yorkshire’s dogs have such an excellent reputation nationally that they are often used by other police forces and we are always planning ahead with the puppy breeding scheme so that we can meet demand.”
He praised the volunteers who care for the pups in the first year of their lives.
“These volunteers are really valuable to us – we couldn’t operate the breeding scheme without them as they take the puppies into their homes and spend the time rearing them until they are old enough to begin their training programmes,” said Dennis.
“I don’t know how the volunteers can give the pups up but they know they have to and we have some who are on their third or fourth puppies, so we are really grateful to them for all they do.”
He said the bond between handlers and their dogs is unique.
“Handlers spend more time with their dogs than they do their relatives – they work with them all day and when they are off-duty they are still with them as the dogs need exercised daily,” he said.