A Met Police officer who remortgaged her home to pay for her retired police dog’s medical bills has launched a charity to support other retired dogs.
Met Police colleagues PC Emma Dignam and PC Phil Wells were inspired to start Putney-based charity London Retired Police Dogs Trust (LRPD) after both of their police dogs retired.
Emma’s dog, RPD Prince, retired aged seven and Phil’s dog, RPD Obi, retired aged eight.
Both dogs incurred significant veterinary bills during their retirement, with Emma having to remortgage her home to fund the treatment of Prince, and Phil spending much of his savings keeping Obi fit and healthy.
Retired police dogs do not receive a pension, and it is difficult for their owners to insure them due to their training, age, and the injuries they may have sustained over the years.
The charity now helps London’s former police dogs have the peaceful retirement they deserve by providing their owners with financial support for veterinary bills and treatment.
Emma, who was worked for the Met police for 18 years and has been working in the dog section since 2010, was allocated Prince when he was just eight weeks old in 2010.
After 15 months of training, general purpose police dog Prince got to work covering south London boroughs.
After Prince retired, he fell ill and was diagnosed with idiopathic vestibular disease.
Three nights at a special veterinary hospital with scans and medication cost Emma over £6000.
Emma said: “This is where I realised how quickly the costs involving our retired police dogs can spiral.
“Having had Prince as my shadow since he was just a puppy, keeping me safe throughout his serving career, there was no question of me not doing whatever I could to support him.”
During Christmas 2019, Prince’s health deteriorated and after having emergency surgery, numerous tumours were found on his liver.
Sadly, Prince did not survive the operation.
The cost of the emergency surgery was over £4000, and in Prince’s three-year retirement Emma estimates she spent over £11,000 in vet bills.
Emma said: “This had sadly not only wiped out our family savings but also meant us re-mortgaging our house in order to cover the bills.
“I worked tirelessly along with Phil to set up London Retired Police Dogs Trust as I didn’t want anyone else to be put in a position of having to weigh up the welfare of their dog over their financial capabilities.
“These service dogs that have spent their working lives dedicated to serving the public deserve a peaceful retirement.”
Although Prince is no longer with Emma, Prince’s litter brother RPD Tanyon, aged 10, is enjoying his retirement with Emma and her husband, who is also a dog handler.
They also have a working police dog, PD Storm, and a rescue terrier, Scruffy.
Phil has been a dog handler for 14 years, and was inspired to get involved after his first working dog, Obi, retired aged eight.
German shepherd Obi became famous after receiving several awards for his bravery following the 2011 London riots, during which he suffered a fractured skull after being hit by a brick.
Obi returned to work following that incident, and was the first dog to be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit (the animals’ OBE) amongst other awards for his devotion and bravery.
He passed away aged 11, a week before LRPD was launched.
Phil said: “They are working dogs, but they are more than that to their handlers, they are an integral part of their family.
“It’s a pleasure to work with them and when they come to retire, it’s nice that the majority of them retire to their handlers and are able to see out their time in the garden or go for long walks or enjoy special Sunday treats.
“The bond between a working police dog and their handler is unbreakable.”
Some of the retired dogs that have been helped by LRPD have had incredible careers, including an explosives search dog who responded to the London Bridge terrorist attack.
Phil added: “These dogs put themselves on the line for us day in day out, not just for us as handlers, but for the general public as well.”
LRPD is delighted to have the support of Dame Judi Dench as a patron, and broadcasters Rob Bell and Sarah Champion as ambassadors.
Featured image credit: Emma Dignam