A retired police officer has warned against cuts to canine units, as it was announced that police dogs that responded to the London terror attacks in 2017 are to receive awards for their efforts.
Former Pc Jean Pearce was one of a number of past and present officers to attend the announcement at Borough Market, the site of one of the terror attacks, along with seven dogs who are set to receive the PDSA Order of Merit later this year.
“The police can’t be without dogs,” she told the Press Association.
“I know there’s cutbacks and cutbacks but, in this day and age, you cannot be without explosives dogs or any of the other dogs.
“For the dogs to get these awards, I think, is brilliant – they need to be recognised for the work that they do.”
Ms Pearce was returning for the first time to Borough Market since she responded to the attack there on June 3 2017, and also saw her dog Kai, who is to receive the award, for the first time since her retirement.
“It’s something I tend to avoid,” she said. “I don’t tend to come into London any more, but I’m with people that I feel safe with today and I think it’s a necessity to come back and prove to people we are here.
“I’m proud to be here today, especially with Kai.”
Ms Pearce said she and Kai, who was only 18 months at the time and “still really a puppy”, were first on the scene when the terror attack on Westminster Bridge happened on March 22 2017.
Together they searched various positions in Parliament Square, including the car that had crashed into railings outside the Houses of Parliament with a casualty still trapped beneath but being attended to by medical staff.
“Procedures went out the window at that stage and I took the decision to search the car to see if there was a bomb in it and make it safe,” she said.
“I had to trust her and we searched around the car over the poor person who was under the car.
“She ignored it all and did a fantastic job.”
After an explosives officer checked and cleared a suspicious package in the boot of the vehicle, Pc Pearce and Kai then cleared Parliament Square, later joining British Transport Police officers on the bridge to search vehicles.
“All that took several hours and she was on the go constantly making sure everything was safe and nothing had been left behind,” she said.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) award is known as an “animals OBE” and the seven dogs receiving the award were chosen to represent the 19 police dogs that served during the London attacks.
PDSA vet Rosamund Ford said the dogs receive the awards for “keeping the public safe” and performing duties in “a highly charged and unfamiliar environment that no amount of training can fully prepare them for”.
On June 3 Pc Jean had finished work when she heard the news of another attack in Borough Market and got back into uniform, changing on the street.
When she arrived at the scene with Kai it was still a “hot area” where there was still believed to be a terrorist on the loose, so the pair went ahead of armed officers to search and ensure the area was safe.
There were still casualties who had not been attended to by emergency services and once Kai and Pc Pearce had cleared the area medical staff were able to attend.
“It was another very long night, unfortunately,” she said.
Another dog to be recognised, Delta, searched more than 30 buildings after the London Bridge attack, and his handler, Pc Mark Snoxhall, was also returning to Borough Market for the first time since the incident.
“To come back is quite strange under different circumstances,” he said. “All our thoughts are with the victims that night, but it’s a proud moment.
“(Police dogs) search areas which we couldn’t… we send them into those areas and it potentially is saving police officers’ lives, the work that they do.”