Fears have been raised that criminals could profit after plans were revealed to cut West Yorkshire Police’s dog section.
The Yorkshire Post understands the number of dog handlers the force employs will be reduced from 27 to about 20 as the force seeks to slash its budget.
The news comes after South Yorkshire Police confirmed this week that its dog support unit is to be reduced from 36 handlers to 25, with three sergeants and eight constables to be re-deployed elsewhere in the force or to retire from policing.
Former police officer Mike Pannett, who helped set up the Don’t Ditch the Dogs campaign to protect police dog services, said there were already half as many handlers as three years ago. He said further cuts would be “disastrous”.
“This will affect officers’ safety and public safety,” he said.
“Police dogs are worth their weight in gold. Criminals are going to be rubbing their hands at this news.”
Police dogs have a range of uses including maintaining public order and searching for criminals, missing people and evidence.
Nick Smart, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “Every department is being subject to cuts and the dog section is no different.
“It’s highly valued and a lot of people have a lot of fondness for it, but nobody is immune.”
Chief Superintendent Barry South said: “Part of our future plans will see a different dog team arrangement which still provides the right level of cover with slightly fewer dog handlers and supervisors by 2017.”
He said no dogs would be put down, but dog numbers would be reduced as some retired.
Mark Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, added: “We have to find smarter, more innovative ways of working, while protecting frontline policing as we see government cuts of £152million by 2016-17.”