They may be man’s best friend, but police dogs have landed the PSNI with a hefty compensation bill... after its specially-trained animals bit people.
Almost £25,000 has been paid out in Northern Ireland after people were injured by police dogs, new figures have revealed.
It is part of a staggering £770,000 bill for compensation run up by forces across the UK over the last three years.
A total of 2,725 suspects were bitten along with 196 police staff and 155 other members of the public.
One bite during a chase led to a payout of almost £49,000, it’s been revealed.
Police chiefs have said dogs are an essential resource and their training is constantly being improved.
The PSNI had the eighth-highest compensation bill for dog-related injuries of all 43 forces surveyed — adding up to £24,566.
According to current figures, the PSNI has 28 working police dogs, while a number of younger ones are being trained.
The bill for the PSNI’s dogs — not including compensation — stands at more than £30,000 every year.
During 2009/10 this included £12,300 for vet bills and £13,000 for dog food. And between 2007/08 and 2008/09, the PSNI spent £83,000 purchasing dogs.
The figures on dog bites were obtained following Freedom of Information requests.
Greater Manchester Police paid the most compensation — more than £180,000.
Eight forces reported more than 100 dog bites. West Midlands Police recorded the highest number, with 644 reported incidents.
The force paid out £83,918 in compensation, while the Metropolitan Police parted with £95,741.
Pensioner Brian Kiddell was bitten on his allotment in Chessington, Surrey, and is still waiting for his compensation claim to be settled.
“Suddenly police officers were there with a loudhailer saying there is a police dog loose on the site,” he said. “Next thing I knew this Alsatian had his teeth in my ankle and just held on.
“There was a police helicopter overhead so no-one could hear my cries. It's the most frightening experience I ever had in my life.”
Mr Kiddell was treated in hospital and his leg has been scarred. Although he has been offered £4,000 in compensation, Mr Kiddell has turned it down, claiming he deserves more.
“They were very apologetic and bought me a bottle of Baileys,” he added.
“But the sum offered is not enough. I used to work settling personal injury claims so I would think an adequate level would be around £10,000.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo ) lead on police dogs, Assistant Chief Constable Nick Ingram, said the animals were an absolute necessity.
“Police dogs are a valuable and essential resource which, when used effectively, make a valuable contribution to reducing and detecting crime and disorder and building safer communities,” he said.
“Working with dogs does bring with it different challenges. The Acpo Police Dog Working Group seeks to ensure that optimum performance is achieved from these valuable resources and that the training, deployment and management of dogs is constantly improved, devised and developed.”
The PSNI said: “The training and deployment of all PSNI dogs is carried out under Acpo guidelines. All PSNI dogs are licensed to Acpo standards annually.”