Guide dog sacked for chasing too many squirrels retrains as police therapy animal

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
River, five, loved chasing squirrels too much to be a successful dog for the blind (SWNS)

Police have recruited a new therapy dog to help vulnerable victims and suspects after the Labrador was sacked from guide-dog training - because she was too naughty.

River, a five-year-old, loved chasing squirrels too much to be a successful dog for the blind, but her kind nature made her the perfect candidate as a therapy animal.

She will now be aiding people who are young or suffering from mental illness when they are taken into custody.

PC Damien Mutch from the Traffic Division of Kent Police stands with the new modified Volvo T5 at its launch at Police Headquarters in Maidstone. The car, said to be the most advanced police car in the country features a touch-screen computer system. *... which allows access to the entire range of police databases and crimefighting tools including on-board speed enforcement cameras, fingerprint recognition software and an automatic number plate recognition system. (Photo by Matthew Fearn - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

River will now be leading at a pilot project at Maidstone Police Station in Kent.

Sergeant Ian Sutton said: "We are often dealing with people in crisis and although their behaviour has resulted in arrest, they could be suffering with depression, anxiety or mental illness.

"Young people may find themselves in custody too and in some cases they are scared and daunted by the experience, whilst others may have difficulty in communicating.

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"Being detained can exacerbate these issues and we are committed to ensure that police custody is a safe and supportive environment for both police, staff and detainees."We are always looking for new or innovative ways to achieve this."

The custody canine is only to be used for detainees who are vulnerable or in need of support to help them be processed through custody.

In 2016, River was accredited as a therapy dog by the Pets as Therapy organisation.

She spent some time supporting children in a special educational needs school, and has since been moved on for a new challenge.

River will now be aiding people who are young or suffering from mental illness when they are taken into custody (SWNS)

River was assessed by Kent Police's dog unit trainers to ensure she had the resilience to deal with the unpredictable nature of a police station, and successfully passed the assessment in December.

Sgt Sutton added: "River has joined the team to offer emotional support to people who are experiencing difficulties, she provides a therapeutic benefit to those in crisis and helps to counter some of the negative behaviour we sometimes experience in custody.

"Since beginning work with us she has had a notable positive impact on those she has spent time and the atmosphere in custody improves when she is on shift.

"This allows staff and officers to use their time more effectively rather than diffusing situations."