Saxon

The Final Assessment as carried out by Charles Wall MBIPDT NTIPDU

Over the past few months there has been much controversy surrounding Gwent Police and ex operational police dog Saxon.

 

Having had a couple of mini assessments carried out whilst the dog was being kenneled at the police kennels just outside Newport it had been decided that Saxon apparently being unable to be re licensed as a police dog should be put to sleep.

 

The Gwent police animal welfare committee and the police decided that a further more in-depth assessment spread over weeks rather than hours should be carried out by an independent assessor with specific knowledge of both the German shepherd as a breed and more importantly a person or persons used to handling dogs that of ultimately been trained to bite.

 

As A1 K9 are a company specialising in the training of both personal protection and security type dogs the decision was made to approach us and to arrange for Charles Wall MBIPDT NTIPDU to conduct what was to be the final assessment of Saxon.

 

On this web page I have included the latest press release from Gwent Police, my assessment of Saxon who I believe will remain here until such time as a suitable home is found for him and some recent pictures that have been taken during his stay with us.

For all those people who have campaigned tirelessly to save this dog’ s life, I think you will be pleased with the outcome. I would however point out, that anybody who really believes that this dog is a cute and cuddly Teddy bear is a genuinely out of touch with reality as in the wrong hands this dog could cause a lot of damage and as such I can in some ways understand the original standpoint from Gwent Police as to the dogs inability to be re homed .

 

During the dog stay with us we have addressed several issues that gave his original handler cause for concern and have modified his behaviour and training to make him somewhat more controllable and less un predictable.

 

I hope that in the not too distant future a suitable home in a controlled environment can be found for Saxon as my belief is the dog would be a very great asset if teamed up with an experienced professional handler within the security sector.

 

Gwent Police Press Release 16th October 2006

 

VF5612006               16 th October 2006

 

 

Police Dog Saxon: Update

 

The future of Saxon the police dog has been decided , following the latest and final assessment obtained by Gwent Police.

 

The objective of the assessment was to gain an informed understanding of the dog and his behaviour, and to receive recommendations regarding all viable options for his future from an independent source.

 

Gwent Police has been working closely with Gwent Police Authority’s Animal Welfare Committee, and although a number of assessments had been carried out in the past, the Force accepted the Committee’s recommendation that this further, fuller assessment was necessary .

 

The importance of the duration of the assessment was emphasised by the Animal Welfare Committee, as, in order to receive a fair assessment on his normal behaviour, Saxon needed to be in an environment where trust had been built with a handler. It was felt that a four-week period would be sufficient for such a trust to be built.

 

Chair of the Gwent Police Authority's Animal Welfare Committee- Councillor John Williams said:

 

“It is our view that Gwent Police have acted very responsibly towards Saxon in agreeing to this final assessment, despite the fact they have been heavily criticised for doing so. They have a duty of care to Saxon, (which senior management have acknowledged to us) and they also have a duty of care to ensure that they do not compromise anyone’s safety if he is re-homed. The two can be mutually achievable but to do so the risks (if any) have to be clearly identified, and managed accordingly”.

 

Gwent Police has accepted fully the findings of this latest report and can confirm that as a result, Saxon will not be put to sleep, but will be re-homed. Although the Force will not seek to renew Saxon’s licence as a general-purpose police dog, he will continue to serve as a working dog. Saxon will be placed into an environment outside of Gwent Police - working only with an experienced handler.

 

The assessment report categorically states that Saxon should not be placed in a ‘pet environment’, effectively ruling out a domestic placement with his ex-handler.

 

The next stage will be to identify a suitable working environment for Saxon that meets the criteria laid out in the assessment.

 

Gwent Police has also noted and accepted the report’s criticism of some of the Forces arrangements with regard to dog training and plans have already been instigated to address these matters. These plans include utilising best practice from within the police service in order to improve our processes, and also working with an experienced assessor to bring industry leading external practice into the Force.

 

Gwent Police and the Animal Welfare Committee acknowledge that this decision has come at the end of a long process, and also appreciate the concern that the public has shown towards Saxon. We are satisfied that the time taken has been justified to achieve what we are confident is the correct outcome for Saxon.

 

- ENDS –

 

The Final Assessment of Saxon

 

 

Assessment and Report on Gwent Police dog Saxon

Commissioned by Gwent Police at the request of The Gwent Police Animal Welfare Committee

This Report dated 6th October 2006 is based on an assessment of Saxon by Charles Wall MBIPDT NTIPDU

covering the period from the 1st to 29th September 2006

Assessor’s credentials

My name is Charles Wall and my dog training experience has been gathered working and training dogs over a number of years whilst primarily working with German Shepherds, Rottweilers and other large breeds.

I am a member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers and a security dog and handler trainer and assessor for the institute. My company is also an accredited training and examination centre.

I am also a member, training instructor and assessor for the National Training Inspectorate for Professional Dog Users and have recently been made a director of this organisation.

I operate a dog training company in Swansea called A1 K9 where we specialise in the supply and or training of personal protection dogs and obedience training. We have

over the years supplied and or trained over 500 personal protection dogs most of which most would have been German Shepherds.

Due to the nature of our work I have over the years supplied many part trained dogs which I have deemed suitable to various Police forces across the country, most of whom became operational G.P. police dogs.


Background to the assessment

In late August I was contacted by Katie Roberts from the Gwent Police animal welfare committee and asked if I would be willing to assess Saxon, should I be regarded as a suitable person to perform this process by Gwent Police.

As I was already aware of the story surrounding this dog and the potential repercussions of doing so I at first suggested that I wanted time to reflect as I needed to make room in my already busy schedule to do the dog justice as regards having sufficient time to evaluate him properly. Having had a couple of hours to think and re jig my schedules I contacted Katie Roberts and informed her that I was happy for her to put my name forward.

Approximately twenty four hours later I was contacted by ACC Bill Horne who asked many questions about my background and experience in working with this type of

dog. Having satisfied himself that I was qualified to take on this assessment arrangements were made to get Saxon transported to my kennels where he still remains.

I have spoken with Superintendent Nigel Russell regularly throughout the assessment to make him aware of progress and have met with him at my facilities on two occasions.

I was provided with the following information by Gwent Police prior to the commencement of the assessment

There are only 4 recorded instances of training since January 2005. This is a fact which I find both hard to believe and wholly unsatisfactory given the guidelines laid down in the ACPO manual regarding training of police dogs.

There was never a problem with Saxon’s obedience but the dog was unreliable during criminal work exercises in that he would not come off the bite and would not stand

off.

The dog was regarded by some as having a questionable temperament in that he could demonstrate aggression towards the handler and others without warning.

A review had been carried out by the Dog Section Sergeant and a recommendation made that on the grounds of public safety, due to his believed unstable temperament

and the refusal of any other Gwent police dog handlers to re-handle Saxon that he should be put to sleep.


Fees

My fees for this assessment I have based on our normal charges for obedience training which I will be donating to Macmillan Cancer Support to further bolster funds that were collected at an event we hosted recently.

By doing this I feel that nobody can accuse me of performing this assessment for financial gain.


Decision to accept the assignment

My reasoning for accepting the assignment was to draw a line under what has been a very emotive topic of which the rights and wrongs have been deliberated on forums and in the press for some months now. It was also to try to achieve a just and informed understanding of the dog and his behaviour and ultimately to give an unbiased view as to the dogs suitability or otherwise for re-homing or in the worst event to help decide whether he should be put to sleep.

It was decided from the outset that during this time of assessment that both the dogs location and indeed my identity be kept strictly confidential so as to stop countless emails, phone calls and possibly media coverage detracting from the job in hand which was to assess Saxon. It was further considered by the police as to whether or not I wanted to remain anonymous as the assessor but I felt that this would most certainly detract from the credibility of what has been a totally unbiased and independent assessment.

My Assessment of police dog Saxon

Saxon was delivered by P.S. Jerry Warman of Gwent Police arriving at A1 K9 on Friday 1st September 2006.

My initial impressions were of a very confident dog that uses bold assertive body language to intimidate people he doesn’t know and trust. (This is not uncommon for a

police dog).

The following day, I took Saxon out of the kennels for an initial evaluation. He again showed very dominant behaviour e.g. jumping up to shoulder height, growling in a confrontational and aggressive way, his whole body language suggesting that he was looking for a confrontation.

My opinion is that if I had shown any weakness, imposed any sanction or had I at that time allowed a confrontation to take place there would have been a very high possibility of me getting bitten. For this reason, in view of the dog’s reputation and the fact that the dog was in an unfamiliar environment being handled by unfamiliar

people I decided that for health and safety reasons, he should be familiarised to wearing a muzzle. (I believe that this has never been achieved and met with considerable resistance from Saxon.)

After a short period of time, the dog was successfully muzzled and taken out and exercised as a reward. However, at this point he was still showing a lot of signs of

aggression towards any person including myself, and any other dogs in the vicinity.

This was overcome with the use of negative reinforcement and within a couple of days the dog started to show signs of being more accepting towards people, other dogs and livestock etc. I believe the penny dropped and the dog considered it was in his best interests to play a part in the modification of his own behaviour.

Within 3-4 days of the dog being at our premises I was able to get the dog out of the kennel, fit a muzzle without resistance and get the dog to demonstrate all aspects of basic obedience both on a lead and on a long line.


Over the period of the assessment, I have addressed the issues initially raised as a problem precluding the dog from being re-licensed and they have now have now been dealt with. The dog will now release the bite on the first command and in the normal cause of events stand off as long as the agitator remains completely still.

During Saxon’s stay, he has been performing on a daily basis the type of obedience, agility and criminal work training as in included in the ACPO manual of guidance for the training of police dogs and I cannot see why it was suggested by his previous handler that he was unfit for re licensing.

The only operational duty that I have not tested whilst the dog has been in my care, is tracking. He performs all other aspects of police work and I have no reason to doubt

in his tracking capability.

We have a very busy training kennels, where I employ 5 full time members of staff plus myself and my partner. By the third week of Saxon’s assessment he was being

taken out, walked and worked by all members of my staff, all of whom despite their age have considerable experience in handling this type of dog.

Conclusion

Due to the training that he has received in the past and his previous role as an operational police dog, he has shown himself to be extremely reactionary and therefore I feel he needs to be under the control of a competent and very experienced handler at all times.

Having had the opportunity to work with this dog over a period of time, bond with him and build his trust in me I would consider him and asset in the type of environment outlined above. I would consider that once a bond has been formed, he should not present a problem to a new handler.

However, remove the experienced handler from the equation and one has a dog that is capable of inflicting enormous damage to either an inexperienced handler or

someone in his path. This dog is not a toy!

Whilst the dog is in our care he is being exercised and worked on a daily basis which I feel may be lacking at the police kennels due to time constraint and operational requirements. Saxon appears very happy in his new environment here and is accepting of me and all my staff and is making further progress on a daily basis.

I consider that many of the problems that this dog arrived here with may have been contributed to by a lack of regular training, lack of discipline by his regular dog handler and the fact that his reputation has preceded him certainly within police dog handling fraternity. This has caused any would be handler to feel intimidated and to back away further reinforcing the dog’s status as the alpha male.


Recommendations

It would certainly not be my recommendation to put this dog to sleep and in my opinion the suggestion to do so was unfounded and could be attributed to the lack of knowledge of whoever suggested that this was an appropriate course of action.

It would therefore be my recommendation that if Saxon is to be re-homed it should be to an experienced dog handler in a WORKING environment so that he is not allowed to regress and demonstrate the anti-social behaviour that was apparent when he first came to us.

It is my view that an ideal home for Saxon, in the event that he is not able to be licensed as a general purpose police dog, would be in a WORKING security environment (covered by the Guard Dogs Act 1975). I feel that this would best serve Saxon’s interests in the long term. The reasoning for this statement is that I do not believe that this dog would co-exist peacefully in a pet environment where his tendency to be overly assertive would go unchecked.
General Observation

I consider from my observation of Saxon that he has been failed by the police system generally and in particular by his primary handler for failing to keep up to the

required operational standards and criteria for licensing of police dogs. I am also concerned that the handler’s management has not insisted on up to date concise training records to evidence the fact that ongoing training was being carried out.


Charles Wall MBIPDT NTIPDU

Managing Director
A1K9 Ltd.

 

Below are some pictures that we have taken of Saxon during his time with us - I will try to take some different ones over the course of the next week.

 

 

 

 

 

All that now remains is for Gwent Police and myself to find a suitable new home for this now famous and special dog.

Rest assured he is in good health and will be in good hands until that day comes!

 

Charles Wall MBIPDT NTIPDU