Service dogs

The Animal Welfare Scheme ensures the welfare needs of all service dogs and training are met humanely and ethically.

Police officer photographed in front on police k9 unit car, with a brownish orange spaniel cross dog.

We have been working with police forces across the UK for over 20 years to ensure the welfare of police dogs is of the very highest standards, and to identify possible service dogs amongst the thousands of dogs we rehome every year.

The Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme was introduced following a tragic incident in 1997, when a police dog called Acer died during a training session with a UK police force. This event sparked public outrage and caused several animal welfare organisations, including us here at Dogs Trust, to stop rehoming dogs to the police. 

In response, a thorough inquiry was conducted by a sub-committee of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme was launched in 2002.

The scheme is managed by the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) for the force. Members of the public from the local community are recruited as Independent Visitors to carry out welfare checks on how police dogs are housed, trained and transported. These checks and the subsequent reporting of their findings enables an open and transparent process which ensures that all the welfare needs of the dogs are being met and that any working police dog is trained humanely and ethically.

We have supported the scheme since its inception by providing a dedicated Animal Welfare Scheme Coordinator to encourage and support all police forces and PCCs in setting up and running an Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme. We also offer training for both police officers and Independent Visitors.

Forces who are compliant with the scheme are issued with a certificate of compliance yearly, and are then able to adopt a dog from us that has been identified as suitable for a working home and meets the criteria required for a police dog.

If your force is interested in setting up an Animal Welfare Independent Visitors Scheme, please reach out to our Animal Welfare Scheme Coordinator. 

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