Cocker spaniel puppy dumped in cage at the roadside becomes police sniffer dog

Meet Chester, the clever cocker spaniel who went from an abandoned pup left at the side of a road to joining the police force.

Chester was one of six puppies – four cocker spaniels and two terrier crossbreeds – found dumped in a cage in Hersden, near Canterbury, in January.

A member of the public stumbled upon the sad scene and the RSPCA rescued them, launching an investigation into the incident while the pups were placed in foster homes.

RSPCA inspector Clive Hopwood said: ‘It’s very possible these puppies were abandoned by a breeder.

‘We believe these puppies may have failed to sell so they were abandoned having passed their “cute” stage when they’re most marketable and most valuable.’

Sarah Piggott, who works for the RSPCA and volunteers as a fosterer, was the one who took in lovely Chester and spotted his talents.

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She recalled: ‘After just a few days with Chester it became apparent that he had huge energy levels that no amount of walking or enrichment seemed to exhaust.

‘I realised he had a real drive for searching and sniffing things out when he’d easily find other dogs’ lost tennis balls on walks and kept bringing them to me.

‘I started hiding tennis balls and sending him to find them; he’d play for hours.

‘He wouldn’t give up until he found it, and never wanted to go home.’

Chester was too boisterous for rehoming, having met a number of potential new owners who weren’t able to keep up with his energy levels.

Tara Luxford, who’s from RSPCA Canterbury and adopted Chester’s brother, Bertie, said: ‘I remember one day we were walking them together and Bertie had lost his new toy in a bush, and we couldn’t reach it.

‘We told Chester to “find it” and he went straight into the bush and got it back for Bertie; he was always destined to be a sniffer dog.’

Sarah was even tempted to keep Chester herself, since she bonded with him so well.

She said: ‘But I wanted him to have the best life possible and I knew his dream would be a home where he could search and sniff all day.

‘I contacted a number of different working dog agencies and felt the police were the best fit for him.

‘Chester had an initial assessment with the police and they were impressed with his drive, energy and concentration, despite the fact he’d had such a bad start in life and had missed out on months of training that other police dogs had already had by his age.’

In March 2022, Chester was taken in by Surrey Police and started his training.

He spent months with a special new foster family before being matched with a handler to complete the final stage of his preparation.

Sarah said: ‘Chester has done really well and caught up to the other puppies who were bred to be sniffer dogs and started their training before him.

‘I’m so proud of him and I’m thrilled that he’s found a home where he can do what he loves every day while being well looked after.’

Chester became an officially licensed police sniffer dog on 26 October, and the occasion was marked at a ceremony on Thursday, 3 November at the Surrey Police HQ.

PD Chester and his handler, PC Kim Hackett, will now be working across Surrey and Sussex.

Surrey Police operational and dog school manager Geoff Wiltshire said: ‘Chester has been amazing since he arrived with us.

‘He has gone from strength to strength and has done really well to pass his digital detection course.

‘Our standards are very high, and he has proven himself to have all the necessary qualities to succeed in this important role.

‘His handler, Kim, has a great bond with him and we look forward to seeing some operational results from this new team.’

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