Second force accused of dog cruelty

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The Independent Online
A SECOND police force has launched an investigation into allegations its officers routinely punch and kick police dogs during the animals' training.

Lancashire constabulary's dog unit has been accused by one of the force's officers of beating its animals for disobeying or growling at the handlers, The Independent has learned.

In a second complaint, the wife of a Lancashire police officer who has now retired, claims that when her husband was an officer he "began to despair" at the "cruelty meted out to the dogs".

The allegations follow the scandal at Essex police force earlier this month in which three officers were convicted of running a "brutal" training regime for dogs. It included hanging the animals by their collars over fences and walls, and instructing their handlers to kick the dogs during training.

Lancashire police last night confirmed they were investigating allegations of cruelty against their police dogs.

The move follows complaints by an Lancashire officer, who wrote to the Police Review magazine: "Earlier this year, I witnessed police dogs being punched and kicked in the abdomen during training, apparently for disobeying and/or growling at the handlers. When I questioned this, I was informed it was a normal and accepted method of correcting and disciplining the dogs.

"While not suggesting that my force uses the extreme cruel methods recently seen in Essex, I now have to ask the question: just how `normal' and widespread is this beating of dogs in training ,not to mention the use of electric collars and similar treatment?

"While it is difficult, and even dangerous, for individual officers to challenge long-standing practices that may not be officially acknowledged, it is important we look at this as a national problem and speak out if we are not comfortable with what we see."

In a second letter to the magazine, a woman wrote: "Many years ago, my husband, who is now retired, applied for - and was accepted on - the police dog training course within the Lancashire Constabulary.

"However, only weeks into the training, he began to despair of the sheer cruelty meted out to the dogs."

The fresh allegations of violence are certain to cause anger and outrage among animal support groups. Following the Essex convictions, in which two officers were granted bail pending appeals against jail sentences and the third was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, the RSPCA said it would not supply dogs to any force until it was satisfied they were not at risk.

A spokesman for Lancashire police said: "We can confirm that in the aftermath of the Essex court case we have received a complaint which is now being investigated by a senior officer."

The inquiry is being carried out by the force's internal disciplinary department.