27 November 2003 | Simon Binns
British police forces are paying external suppliers of police dogs more than £1,000 an animal because of a national shortage.
Every police force in the UK has a specialist dog section, but even large forces with in-house breeding and training facilities are struggling, said Sergeant Mick Chapman of the North Yorkshire Police Dog Handling Unit.
"It is affecting almost every British police force," he said.
"German Shepherds are scarce as they are not a popular breed anymore, yet they are the dog we use most. That means we often have to pay an external supplier and as demand increases, the cost is getting higher."
Sonia Lynch, a former police dog trainer and owner of Dog Lead, which supplies dogs to Lancashire and Northumbria police forces, told SM: "German Shepherds and Springer Spaniels are in high demand. The average cost for both breeds - untrained - is around £400, dependent on pedigree. Top-quality puppies can be sold from £500 and fully trained dogs in excess of £1,000."
A police force can either procure a dog by receiving a "gift dog" donated by a member of the public or bought at nominal cost, or purchase one from a specialist breeder or an established line of working stock at a higher price.
The number of dogs given to the police has reduced over recent years because of their high failure rate in training and post-acquisition costs, such as healthcare.
Mike Townley, a former police dog handler and Home Office instructor who supplies private buyers and the police, said: "Police forces nationwide are having to rethink their procurement methods and rely on external breeders."