Rescue dog Benny catches eye of the law
Meet 10-week-old police pup Benny, a rescue dog who was recently plucked from a local animal sanctuary and could soon be protecting the Northern Ireland public.
The adorable Malinois cross was spotted at Assisi Animal Sanctuary last week by a PSNI dog handler who instantly saw his potential, and on Monday was taken to the Police College Dog Training Unit at Antrim's Steeple complex to meet the team.
While he is currently taking it easy as the baby of the barracks, Benny will undergo his first formal test as part of the PSNI Puppy Programme at 12 weeks, to determine if he will one day become a fully-fledged police dog.
He will then undertake a new test every month. If he successfully passes these, he will progress to the Young Dog Scheme when he is eight months old.
"It's the first time in a number of years that we have had a pup as young as Benny," Inspector of Combined Operations, Jill Duffie told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Normally we would take German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. We don't know what Benny's background is, but he is showing early signs of having what it takes.
"We tried to see if he would retrieve and if he wanted to do a tug of war on a rope, and he really shone. We have seen quite a few pups here, and that wee dog was as good, if not better, than the others."
Belgian Malinois are known for their intelligence and athleticism, making them a popular choice as police and protection dogs.
Benny's current focus is on becoming well socialised around humans and familiarising himself with the station environment.
He is now living with a staff member, and will move in with his new handler if he becomes a police dog.
"As a general purpose police dog he will have to learn to track a person, he would have to search for people and for objects with scent as well as protection work and public order work," Inspector Duffie continued.
"If he doesn't make the grade and become PD Benny, he will still have a bright future as a well-trained family pet.
"We will get him a good home - we already have a number of dog handlers and staff members who have offered to take him.
"We don't have favourites, but he is the baby."
The PSNI said it will publish regular 'pupdates' on its Facebook pages for anyone who wishes to keep up-to-date with Benny's progress.