Charity Launches Emergency Fundraising Campaign After ‘Most Expensive Month Ever’
A charity that supports retired police dogs and ensures they get access to vital veterinary care has launched an emergency fundraising appeal after ‘unprecedented demand’ from desperate owners.
The Thin Blue Paw Foundation is a charity that supports retired police dogs across the UK by providing financial help for their veterinary and medical needs.
The Foundation – which launched in August 2020 – has recorded its busiest and most expensive month ever this September with 23 claims submitted for 21 individual dogs, totalling more than £45,000.
Trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “This has been our most expensive month ever and we’re seeing unprecedented demand for our support. This month alone we’ve had claims of more than £45,000 submitted to us; that’s more than we paid out in 2021 (£32,000) and 2022 (£41,000).
“We have 390 dogs registered with us – that’s more than ever before – and we’re receiving more and more pleas for help from owners. Sadly, it’s clear that many dog owners are struggling due to the cost of living crisis, and the staggering increase in veterinary costs.
“Unfortunately, taking on a retired police dog comes with added costs because most of these dogs have wear and tear from their strenuous working lives and are also uninsurable.”
Eight-year-old German Shepherd Neeko had emergency surgery on Monday (25th September) with specialist vets in Cambridgeshire after he lost the use of his legs.
RPD Neeko – who served with Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies’ Joint Dog Section for seven years before retiring in February 2023 and was named Police Dog of the Year in 2017, 2018 and came runner-up in 2019 – lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, with Nicole Ollett and her family.
On 16th September, Nicole came downstairs to find him distressed, in pain and unable to stand. Vets discovered he had a damaged disc in his neck which was putting pressure on his spinal column, affecting his ability to stand and walk.
Nicole said: “It was absolutely awful when we found him unable to stand; he couldn’t get up and we had to carry him to the car while he was crying.”
He had surgery and has now returned home to begin his long road to recovery, with medication, regular physiotherapy and check-ups.
Eleven-year-old springer spaniel Zuma was just 18-months-old when she was imported from the Netherlands to join police dog handler Tony Russell as a drugs, cash and weapons recovery dog.
The duo worked together as part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies’ Joint Dog Section – detecting thousands of pounds worth of drugs, cash and dangerous weapons – until they retired together in 2019.
She fell ill in July 2023 when she suddenly became lethargic, struggled to breathe or walk, and developed a cough. She underwent tests and was treated for a lung infection with medication, but fell ill again six weeks later. Vets carried out surgery where they discovered an old grass seed that was embedded internally and had caused the problems.
Tony, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, said: “I contacted the Thin Blue Paw on a Saturday morning and was emotionally all over the place; within 10 minutes the team called me back to confirm that they would cover the costs of Zuma’s treatment. It’s hard to put into words the relief and hope it gave me.
“If it weren’t for the Thin Blue Paw’s quick response and generosity, I don’t believe Zuma would be here today and I’m forever in their debt for this.”
Eleven-year-old Belgian Malinois Fiji served with Surrey and Sussex Police for six years after being rescued at four-months-old. She retired early after pulling the ligaments in her leg jumping for a toy and retired to live with her handler, Claire Bird, in West Sussex.
The Thin Blue Paw Foundation has supported RPD Fiji for years with special injections to help with her itchy skin and investigations to help with her worsening hip dysplasia.
Claire said: “Specialists think she has degenerative myelopathy (a disease affecting the spine) which is affecting her movement and mobility. An MRI will show how it can be treated but she may need surgery.”
Five-year-old Belgian Malinois Max retired at the age of four after damaging his cruciate and, just two months later, the meniscus on the same leg. Sadly, as is common, this has led to his other cruciate deteriorating and he is booked to have surgery to repair it in early October.
His owner, Natalie, from Cornwall, adopted him when he retired after he served as her Ministry of Defence Police dog in Devon.
She said: “He’s relied heavily on his left leg and the stress on that leg has led to a cruciate injury. He’s noticeably down in himself and frustrated that he can’t manage long walks or running around. He’s a different dog at the moment but hopefully he’ll get a new lease of life once he’s recovered from his surgery.”
German Shepherd Bear, 10, retired from Sussex Police in 2020, but still volunteers as a wellbeing dog for police staff. In August, Bear suddenly lost use of his rear legs and began struggling to walk prompting an emergency MRI and surgery.
His owner, Julia Pope, said: “He had four herniated discs in his spine caused by years of police work. Two of the discs had healed themselves but the others were causing his issues and were removed. He must had been in so much pain for ages.
“Post-surgery he couldn’t walk but he’s now doing really well and is having regular hydrotherapy and physio to help get his strength back.”
Bear’s owners, from East Sussex, have paid his initial vet fees and are covering his rehab costs but the Thin Blue Paw Foundation is fundraising for the costs of the specialist treatment and surgery.
Seven-year-old Harper retired from Northamptonshire Police as a hero after receiving awards for quickly locating a high-risk missing person and helping to save his life. Sadly, the German Shepherd’s career was cut short after just two years when she developed bicep tendonitis.
Police control room dispatcher, Daniela Evans, from Nottingham, took Harper on as a temporary foster dog but soon realised she couldn’t bear to be parted from her.
Unfortunately, Harper fell ill earlier this year and vets discovered she had an aggressive form of cancer. They decided to operate to remove her spleen in an attempt to slow down the spread but, sadly, just a few hours after the surgery, Harper’s liver started bleeding out and there was nothing vets could do so Daniela went to be by her side as she passed away.
Help these heroes
Kieran added: “With 390 dogs registered with us, we have no idea what could be around the corner or what claims might come in over the next week; that’s why we really need the public’s help to ensure that we can always be there for a dog in need.
“Our nation’s police dogs loyally and bravely keep our streets safe and fight crime, putting their lives on the line every time they respond to a call. The least these dogs deserve, when they retire, is a long and happy life with access to the very best veterinary treatment.”
To donate to the fundraising appeal, please visit: www.justgiving.com/campaign/