A Yorkshire police force is set to cut its dog section in half, leaving just 13 police dogs to cover its entire patch, as part of a new round of cost-saving measures.
The South Yorkshire Police dog section is set to merge with Humberside Police’s as part of cuts to the force’s Operational Support Services.
The new, merged unit will be based at Niagara in Sheffield. It means there will only be 25 police dogs to cover the whole of South Yorkshire and Humberside.
South Yorkshire Police has lost 75 per cent of its dog handlers and dogs since March 2014. The number was originally cut from 48 to 24.
A further 12 posts are to be cut from April 2016 – leaving just 12 dog handlers to cover events such as football matches and demonstrations as well as carry out regular policing duties such as pursuing suspects and searching properties.
It is understood the force’s existing dog handlers will have to apply for their own jobs and will be assessed on their experience, attendance, amount of training they have received, the age of the dog and how proactive the officers are.
Last year, The Yorkshire Post revealed that the number of dog handlers employed by neighbouring West Yorkshire Police was be reduced from 27 to about 20 as the force slashes its budget.
Author and former North Yorkshire Police officer Mike Pannett, who has campaigned against cuts to local police dog sections, said the latest cuts were another sign that “police animals are becoming extinct”.
He said: “To me it is just catastrophic the effect this will have. If you think about the make-up of South Yorkshire and Humberside it is a busy place, they have lots of issues.
“They have got to make millions of pounds in savings, they have already sold police stations and got rid of hundreds of cops.
“The knock-on effect for both officer safety and public safety is immense. One police dog turning up is a like a van-load of cops.
“The people making these decisions on my view have no real understanding of this. Police dogs are worth their weight in gold.”
It was reported this summer that 1,500 South Yorkshire Police roles could be cut over the next five years in a bid to save £59 million.
A force spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police is to restructure the size of its dog section as the force merges with Humberside’s dog section, as part of the substantial savings to be achieved, that are required to meet budgetary cuts imposed on the Force’s Operational Support Services.
“It is part of a wider programme of change taking place throughout the force to ensure the police continue to provide the best possible public service but within a significantly reduced budget.
“A number of dog handler posts will be lost through natural retirement, however cover will still be provided to both counties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Police dogs and their handlers provide a range of important roles in helping to keep the public safe.”
Neil Bowles, chairman of South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: “It means our officers could be called to jobs in Bridlington but if a search is required the scent will have gone by the time they get there.”