Police dog handlers in South Yorkshire have been warned their unit faces cuts – with specialist dogs set to be axed from the front line.
The move, being challenged by dog handlers and the Police Federation, is being considered after Government funding was cut by £49.3 million.
Dog handlers fear their unit could be halved, leading to the loss of 20 posts.
A number have contacted the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation to express fears over job losses and the impact the loss of dogs would have on crime fighting.
Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles said: “Dogs and their handlers are definitely front line resources so this puts to bed the Government lies about cost-cutting not affecting the front line.
“I have had dog handlers approach me worried about the future.
“Nottinghamshire Police went down this route and reduced the number of dogs and handlers but soon realised they had made a mistake and are recruiting again.”
Chief Constable David Crompton said: “The force has to make difficult decisions to meet unprecedented cuts imposed on its budget.
“We are looking at every aspect of policing to identify savings and this includes the Dog Support Unit.
“We have more dogs and handlers than similar or larger police forces so it’s entirely legitimate to examine what options are available to make savings as part of a wider review of our operational support services.
“No decisions have been made at this stage but proposals have been submitted to reduce numbers, which will save the force money.
“We have worked hard to identify ways of removing cost from the organisation while protecting front line services, continuing to drive down crime rates.
“Some decisions will prove unpopular but I am confident we will balance the budget in a way that places public safety and satisfaction at the heart of the future policing model in South Yorkshire.”
One dog handler said: “We are already at full stretch to provide a reasonable level of service, having had our numbers reduced through natural wastage over the years.”
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