A five-year-old Labrador named River has been let go from her job as a guide dog, only to have her next job be an important role within the police force.
The reason for River’s failure as a guide dog? She couldn’t resist chasing squirrels.
Despite her love of chasing squirrels, River does have strong skills that made her the ideal candidate for a pilot project at Maidstone police station.
River is now responsible for keeping vulnerable arrested people calm when they are brought into custody – this includes juveniles or people with anxiety, depression and mental illness.
River was tested and became accredited as a therapy dog by the “Pets as Therapy” organization back in 2016, prior to her spending time in a special educational needs school with kids.
She made such a difference that the school bought their own therapy dog, meaning River had to find a new job.
Kent Police were the ones who spotted her potential, so they tested her to see if she had both the temperament and resilience to excel in an unpredictable environment.
She did wonderfully and started her new role in supporting people in custody at the beginning of December.
The police department has protocols in place to ensure her safety at all times, including having a handler always watching over her, access to water and food, and regular breaks.
Sergeant Ian Sutton from the Kent Police is the one responsible for coordinating the custody canine initiative.
He explained, “We are often dealing with people in crisis and although their behavior has resulted in an 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.”
He added, “Being detained can exacerbate these issues and we are committed to ensuring that police custody is a safe and supportive environment for both police, staff and detainees. 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 behavior we sometimes experience in custody.”
Sutton concluded, “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.”
Wonderful job River.