ON THE heels of a recommendation that police dogs and horses be afforded protection under Western Australia’s Animal Welfare Act, the Superintendent of Police for the Great Southern says a police dog is a distinct possibility for the region.
“We’ve been pushing for a while, and they are reviewing trying to get a police dog in our district,” Superintendent Dom Wood told The Weekender.
“We think we will get one, but when, I don’t know.”
He said drug detection dogs sometimes saw action in his district, as recently as last week in a rural area.
“It would be difficult to justify a general purpose dog for tracking and all that, because we just don’t have the level of burglaries and crime that they have in the metro area,” he said.
“But certainly there is talk of an agreement that we can get a drug detection dog down here at this point.”
Mr Wood said that, most likely, one of the existing patrol officer positions in the region would be converted to a dog handler position.
“All we would have to do is find a position, for example we could have an officer down here who puts their hand up and says ‘I’d like to become a dog handler’, and he or she could do the [handler’s] course,” he said.
“And, if the time is right, the next dog that is available would come down here.”
Mr Wood said police horses also helped patrol the region from time to time.
“Over the summer period, we had a little bit of an increase in crime in the Albany town centre, so we did actually bring the horses down [from Perth] and we coincided that with the 150-year anniversary of the police station, so they came down for that,” he said.
The Weekender has learned that WA Police Union President George Tilbury wants a Parliamentary committee to recommend that the existing Animal Welfare Act be amended to prohibit the “assault” of a police animal.
In a letter dated April 18, Mr Tilbury tells the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Legislation that the police force has about 40 dogs and 20 horses.
“Police animals provide alternatives to using lethal force and it has been said by officers from those units that a dog is worth six officers and a horse is the equivalent of 10,” he writes.
“The WA Police Union is advised that police horses are worth approximately $150,000 after their initial purpose and associated training.
“The monetary worth of a general duties puppy can also be as much as $15,000.”
Mr Tilbury advises that about four police dogs are injured on average each year.
“Police animals are often deployed in dangerous situations for the purpose of law enforcement,” he notes.
“The Act should be amended to reflect the gravity of assaulting one.”