A POLICE dog who plunged 40 feet off a cliff while chasing a suspect through woodland is set to return to patrol after emerging unscathed from the fall.
Six-year-old German Shepherd Gimley and his handler, Pc Tim Yates, were called out in the hunt for a suspect after reports of a vehicle failing to stop.
The offending car was abandoned in Gildersome, West Yorkshire, and the suspect was tracked with the aid of the police helicopter to a patch of nearby woodland.
Pc Yates, 46, said the dog had “picked up a line of scent” that took the pair into woods they weren’t familiar with at 9pm on Saturday. But during their search Gimley fell 40 feet down a sheer drop.
Once he was out of the ravine the officer gave the dog a once over and could feel no damage, before a vet confirmed he had no broken bones or internal injuries. Minutes after he fell police also managed to catch the suspect, who was arrested.
Pc Yates said: “It was dark, very steep, quite tricky to navigate through. We had managed to navigate for some distance before being joined by the police helicopter.
“Due to it being a wooded area you started to get a bit disorientated and you lose your bearings a bit.
“We were walking in what we thought was the right direction towards our van and Gimley slipped on some muddy banking and went straight over a sheer drop into the ravine.”
The officer shone his torch down and could see his partner of three years at the bottom, and saw that he wasn’t moving.
He said: “It was one of those heart-wrenching moments and you think, worst case scenario, the dog is seriously injured but I can’t get down to him.
“Then he got up, hobbled, and started to make his way back up the ravine and has made his way all the way back up to me, which I think is quite a feat in itself.
“When I saw Gimley down there I thought the worst. Certainly as a dog handler it is our worst nightmare but I am sure it is any dog owners’ worst nightmare.
“The vet couldn’t believe it when I brought him in, he wasn’t limping then either.”
“He is very quiet at work but I know anything he confronts he can deal with. I would say tracking is his best talent, he has a fantastic nose,” he added.
PC Yates, who has been a police officer for 17 years and dog handler for eight, hopes his partner will be back at work by Friday.
It emerged earlier this month that the number of dog handlers West Yorkshire Police employs will be reduced from 27 to about 20 as the force seeks to slash its budget.
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”.
Police dogs have a range of uses including maintaining public order and searching for criminals, missing people and evidence.