Police dogs who supported emergency services during the London terror attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Borough Market are being honored for their heroic actions by veterinary charity The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
Seven police dogs from the Metropolitan Police (Met) and British Transport Police (BTP) will be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit – the animal equivalent of the OBE or Order of the British Empire – at a ceremony later this year. The dogs have been chosen to represent the 19 Police Dogs who served during the 2017 attacks.
Met police dogs Kai and Dave (explosive detection dogs), and Delta (firearms support dog) will receive PDSA medals, alongside BTP dogs Bruno and Bobby (explosive search dogs) Marci (firearms support dog), and Jax (general purpose dog).
In March 2017, Central London was hit by a terrorist attack that, in just 82 seconds, left five people dead, including a police officer, and 29 injured. In the moments following the attack, the BTP Explosive Search Dog Section and the Met Police Explosive Detection Dog Team were rushed to the scene to assess the situation and ensure public safety.
BTP Dogs Ollie, Oscar, Bruno and Scooby searched through the chaos for potential devices that could cause further harm on the bridge itself and around Parliament Square. They were joined at the scene by Met Police Dogs Kai and Bruce and their handlers. They searched the car that had crashed into the wall of the Palace of Westminster, as a precautionary measure in case it contained a bomb. Once safe, helicopter emergency medical services landed in Parliament Square to help injured victims.
In June 2017, a white van containing three attackers drove into 10 pedestrians on London Bridge, seriously injuring eight and killing two. The van collided with a railing and attackers alighted from the van armed with knives and appeared to be wearing suicide vests. They ran through Borough Market, continuing their assaults on innocent members of public. Eight people were killed and 48 people were injured during the attack.
BTP General Purpose Dog Teams were called to the scene to clear the streets, buildings and public areas alongside firearms officers. Police dogs Jax, Marci, Johnny, Rocy, Tara and Bobby searched amid a volatile situation for over 13 hours, virtually non-stop. Police dogs Tara, Rocy and Bobby arrived on scene and they also worked tirelessly, never faltering in their duty.
Met police dogs Alfie, Dave, Poppy and Robson were then deployed to undertake a systematic search of the area. Together with police dog Kai, a relatively new recruit, they searched a dozen buildings. Police dog Delta worked with her handler and a team of firearms officers to search over 30 buildings. Her skills, calibre and professionalism saved vital time.
At Borough Market, the Met Dog Teams joined armed officers to search for a suspect who was still unaccounted for, despite the unknown risk level to themselves and their dogs. Meanwhile, police dogs Casper and Romeo were tasked with searching the suspects’ suicide vests for explosives.
Police dog Casper and his handler were later dispatched to clear a suspect vehicle under a nearby railway bridge that, it was believed, could be harboring an explosive device. Despite the horrendous surrounding conditions, Casper was able to indicate the vehicle was safe, allowing a visual check inside the vehicle to take place.
Commenting on the awards, PDSA director general, Jan McLoughlin, said: “During both attacks in 2017, the role played by all of the police dogs was crucial. They are trained to search transport, buildings and events, usually in a non-hostile environment. Yet on these occasions they worked in unimaginable conditions, remaining calm and responsive.
“Their devotion and service to society was incredible, especially under such distressing circumstances, and we will never forget those who lost their lives in these appalling attacks. Recognizing the actions of these devoted dogs with our prestigious PDSA Order of Merit will be an honor.”
British Transport Police Inspector Paul Miles said: “I am immensely proud of our dogs and their handlers, and absolutely thrilled to see their bravery and resilience recognized through this very special award. They worked through physically and emotionally challenging conditions without second thought, courageously walking into danger and putting the public’s safety before their own.
“While today is a day of celebration, the horror of 2017 will never leave us, and our thoughts will always remain with those who lost their lives and were injured in these terrible incidents.”
Chief Inspector Graham Horwood from the Met’s Taskforce said: “In 2017 we were sadly met with some unimaginable events and our thoughts and condolences remain with those affected.
“Our police dogs and their handlers were required to work in the most challenging environments and we are delighted to hear that their extraordinary work has been recognized. It is an honor for them to receive such a prestigious award and they will continue to work day and night to keep London safe.”
The Met and BTP dogs will take the total number of PDSA Order of Merit recipients to 27, including 17 dogs and 10 horses. The PDSA medal, which was instituted in 2014, recognizes animals who display outstanding devotion to their owner or wider society, above and beyond normal companionship – and represents an exceptional example of the special relationship between animals and humans.
The Order of Merit is part of PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme, which was instituted in 1943 by the charity’s founder, Maria Dickin. She believed that, if animals were recognized for their heroic actions, it would help to raise their status in society, ensuring they are better treated.