Puppy rescued from van becomes specialist police blood detection dog

An enthusiastic spaniel who was rescued from poor conditions in Kent is giving back to the community after getting a second chance – as a police detection dog.

‘Sprocker’ spaniel Bella was just 20-weeks-old in May 2021 when she was rescued by the RSPCA from the Ashford area of Kent.

RSPCA Kent Chief Inspector Nick Wheelhouse said: “We were called to an address by police and discovered three dogs living in the back of a van in completely inappropriate conditions. They were removed from the site, along with a number of other dogs, and came into RSPCA care.

“When we were able to begin searching for new homes for them I was visiting our centre with the local dog legislation officer and introduced him to Bella. She rushed straight up to him and started playing with the ball he was throwing.

“He turned to me and said she’d make a great police search dog. She was busy, bouncy and full of energy so we knew we might struggle to find her a home that would be active enough to keep up with her, so a working role seemed the perfect fit!”

Bella went to live with a volunteer puppy walker, working with Kent Police’s Dog Section, in August 2021. She qualified as a forensic recovery dog, in March 2022, alongside her handler PC Alan Smith.

Chief Inspector Craig West, of Kent Police’s Dog Section, said: “Police dogs play a vital role in modern policing and work side-by-side with officers and staff to keep people safe and help bring offenders to justice.

“We enjoy a strong partnership with the RSPCA and were delighted to be able to give Bella a loving home and welcome her to the Kent Police family. She is settling in very well and I have no doubt she will continue to make a valuable contribution to the force’s work in the months and years to come.

“Dogs like Bella who are trained to detect blood use their extraordinary sense of smell to track down evidence at scenes of crime, or to help locate people who may be injured and in need of our assistance. We just could not carry out this type of work without them, which is one of the reasons why our police dogs are held in such high regard.

“The mistreatment of dogs and other animals is completely unacceptable and we commend the RSPCA for the work they do to safeguard neglected pets like Bella and ensure they go on to receive a much higher quality of life.”

Bella in Police training – copyright RSPCA

The RSPCA has worked successfully with a number of police dog units up and down the country and has seen dozens of unwanted, neglected and abandoned dogs go on to become successful police dogs, including:

  • Cocker spaniel Badger who, as a puppy, was dumped in a blue bucket in Surrey and went on to become a sniffer dog with Surrey and Sussex Police Dog Unit;

  • Unwanted Staffie Roxy, who was abandoned, joined Hampshire and Thames Valley Specialist Search Unit as an explosives search dog;

  • Labrador Bonnie was six-months-old when she was rescued from a puppy farm in Wales and she has recently qualified as a sniffer dog with Gloucestershire Police.

The charity has also sent dogs to fellow charities to be trained as therapy dogs and support dogs.

Dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “We rehome around 8,000 dogs every year and the majority of these go to family homes to be much-loved pets and favourite family members. But sometimes our experienced staff feel that dogs who come into our care wouldn’t be suitable for a normal family home and, due to their behaviour or energy levels, would benefit from having a job or being a working dog.

“It’s so wonderful to see some of our dogs go off to join the police and become crime-fighting heroes. Not only are they fighting crime and helping to keep their communities safe, but they’re having the time of their lives doing it. It’s all a big game to them!”

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals like Bella, please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.