Crime-fighting dogs call it a day

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Searching for missing people, sniffing out criminals and hunting for drugs and firearms - it’s all in a day’s work for Kes and Fern.

The crime fighting dog duo have been part of West Yorkshire Police, since they were both just one-year-old.

w7005d702 Police appeal for dogs to train - Carr Gate. PC John Leak and Mack with PC Dave Cornforth.

w7005d702 Police appeal for dogs to train - Carr Gate. PC John Leak and Mack with PC Dave Cornforth.

Thousands of pounds worth of drugs have been taken off the county’s streets thanks to Springer Fern.

And German Shepherd Kes’ scent detecting has helped officers to trace around 150 crime suspects.

Now, after more than seven years of service each, the four-legged friends have begun their retirement.

They will remain by the side of their handler PC John Leak, who will care for them at his Wakefield home.

w7005c702 Police appeal for dogs to train - Carr Gate. PC John Leak and Mack.

w7005c702 Police appeal for dogs to train - Carr Gate. PC John Leak and Mack.

And as they officially left their roles on Tuesday, they were awarded with police long-service medals, under a new National K9 Memorial Charity scheme.

PC Leak, who is also retiring after three decades with the force, said: “The dogs work the same shifts as us, nights, lates, everything. It does tire them out.

“It’s nice that they have been recognised with certificates from the chief constable for the work that they have undertaken .

“And nationally they are the first two dogs in the country to receive those medals through the charity.

West Yorkshire Police Community Fun Day at Spring Hall, Halifax.
Dog handler PC John Leak with Kes.

West Yorkshire Police Community Fun Day at Spring Hall, Halifax. Dog handler PC John Leak with Kes.

“The police K9 Memorial charity are also raising funds to create a statue in honour of all the police dogs that have served, including those that have been killed.

“It’s great for them to be recognised.”

The 51-year-old first joined the police in 1987 working first in response teams and then in operational support units.

Having grown up with dogs himself, he couldn’t resist applying when a handler position later became available 17 years ago.

PC Leak said: “It’s a really strange job because you are working with your best mates constantly.”

“The only difference is they have got four legs not two.

“I always have them there, 24 hours a day.”

PC Leak, who has been based at the Carr Gate facility in Wakefield, first worked with German Shepherd Mack but was allocated Kes, a force-bred dog, when Mack retired.

He trained her from a young pup and took her on her first job at the age of 12 months.

Fern, now 10, has also worked with PC Leak from being just one-year-old. She was gifted to the force from a man in Pudsey.

PC Leak said: “Fern is absolutely full of life. She never stops running about, she always wants to work.

“Kes, when she’s at work, she’s in the mind-set and she’s very much at work. But when she’s not she’s so chilled and relaxed.

“To me, they are pets - pets with an attitude I call them.”

Fern has specialised in searching for drugs, firearms and cash, while Kes has used her nose to track down missing people or crime suspects who are fleeing or hiding from police.

The eight-year-old has even helped to save a life, sniffing out a man who had been dragged under a car and was laying unconscious.

PC Leak said: “The vehicle covered him completely so the man couldn’t be seen. But Kes indicated that he was underneath the car. If Kes hadn’t located him, he might have died.”

The trio are planning to spend their retirement enjoying “family time and long walks”.

PC Leak said: “For the dogs, there will be no more rushing about in police vehicles and no more night shifts. There will just be normal days doing what normal dogs do.”

They were presented with certificates in recognition of their long service by Chief Constable Dee Collins last week.