Brave police dogs and handlers recognised at inaugural Thin Blue Paw Awards

Police dog handler Pc Megan West and German shepherd Calli (Penny Bird/Thin Blue Paw Awards/PA)
Police dog handler Pc Megan West and German shepherd Calli (Penny Bird/Thin Blue Paw Awards/PA)
PA Media

Police dogs have been given bravery awards for efforts including saving a man from suicide and overcoming a machete-wielding attacker.

Five service dogs and six handlers are being honoured at the inaugural Thin Blue Paw Awards at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire.

Some 140 people and nine dogs were invited to the event, which is hosted by BBC News presenter Rich Preston in the stately Tudor house near Stevenage.

German shepherd Calli and Pc Megan West won the Lifesaver award for preventing a man’s suicide attempt with moments to spare in June 2021.

After receiving a call from a man in crisis saying he was going to take his own life, the Kent Police pair tracked him down in just 10 minutes after Calli picked up a scent.

Pc Paul Hopley and West Midlands Police dog Stark (Penny Bird/Thin Blue Paw Awards/PA)

The man was trying to hang himself from a tree, but Pc West cut him free and administered first aid moments later and he made a full recovery.

West Midlands Police dog Stark and Pc Paul Hopley received the Outstanding Bravery award for overcoming a machete-wielding attacker following reports of attempted break-ins at a Staffordshire allotment.

They responded to calls in the early hours of December 14 last year, when the suspect struck Stark at least 20 times with a machete – leaving him with deep lacerations on his head and covered in blood.

The four-year-old black German shepherd-Belgian malinois cross still managed to drag the attacker away as Pc Hopley subdued him with an aerosol similar to pepper spray.

Stark needed emergency treatment and stitches before he bravely returned to his duties four weeks later.

Dutch shepherd Bart and Pc Kelly Walker were recognised as the Crime Fighting Duo after supporting all units of Cheshire Police and North Wales Police to track down high-risk missing people and with firearms support.

Pc Kelly Walker and Dutch shepherd Bart (Penny Bird/Thin Blue Paw Awards/PA)

Pc Walker also helped design a body armour for the dogs, with Bart trialling the equipment.

Two-year-old Labrador Elvis, and his handler Pc Colin Nash, were given the Rising Star award for sniffing out knives from the streets of London and identifying county lines victims.

From finding two suspects hiding under a caravan after being struck in the face with a crowbar in 2016, to catching a fleeing suspect as he tried to choke her this year, police dog Nala has become renowned for tackling burglars in Northamptonshire.

The German shepherd of seven years’ service was given the Lifetime Achievement with her handler Pc Sean Foster.

Leicestershire Police officer of 22 years Darren Sewell received the Special Recognition award after caring for police dogs Jura and Gilly while helping train puppies for neighbouring forces.

Pc Colin Nash and two-year-old labrador Elvis (Penny Bird/Thin Blue Paw Awards/PA)

The dog handler and firearms support handler of 16 years was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma in 2020, and has been undergoing chemotherapy while continuing to care for his pack.

National dog welfare charity the Thin Blue Paw Foundation organised the event with sponsorship from Animal Friends Insurance.

The charity’s co-founder, Kieran Stanbridge, said: “There are approximately 1,500 serving police dogs working across the UK and, every day, they put their lives on the line alongside their handlers to help fight crime, save lives and keep the public safe.

“As a charity, we want to support these dogs to live long and happy lives when they retire, but we also want to acknowledge, recognise and celebrate the dogs, police dog handlers, and duos who have made a real difference in their communities.”

Dogs and handlers from Surrey and Sussex Police, Derbyshire Police and Nottinghamshire Police are also highly commended in the categories.

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