11 Jun 2016

In-vest-ing in police dog protection

1:24 pm on 11 June 2016

Police dogs will get better protection in the field with the roll-out of a stab resistant harness.

Police dogs will get better protection in the field with the roll-out of a stab resistant harness.

Patrol dog Ike models the new harness. Photo: SUPPLIED/New Zealand Police

It has two layered polymer panels to shield the vital organs from stabbing and slashing and it will protect dogs from being hit by offenders.

The new 'Mako' harness was trialled on eight dogs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and on two armed offenders squad courses.

The design includes velcro and loops for attachments such as a light or GPS unit, and a camera attachment is also being considered.

Senior Sergeant Mark Davidson, head of the Wellington Dog Section was the driving force of the project and said the new harness was not bullet proof and it was unlikely it could have saved police dogs who were shot and killed.

A man shot and killed a police dog, Gazza, in Porirua in April, kicking off a 24-hour armed standoff with police with man eventually being found dead.

"A dog's greatest protection is its speed and agility, ballistic armour capable of stopping a shot would seriously affect a dog's mobility."

The harness will be manufactured in New Zealand by Hamilton-based specialist Sabre Tactical NZ.

Tests found ten layers of the polymer would stop stabbing penetration but the material is so light that it was decided to opt for 23.

Police dogs will get better protection in the field with the roll-out of a stab resistant harness.

Ike tests the mobility of the new harnesses. Photo: SUPPLIED/New Zealand Police

National Co-ordinator Police Dogs Inspector Todd Southall said the current dog harness was due for an overhaul.

Police dogs will get better protection in the field with the roll-out of a stab resistant harness.

Two patrol dogs of the future try mini versions on for size. Photo: SUPPLIED/New Zealand Police

"The harnesses we have now are pretty much unchanged since the start of the dog section, we're living in different times and it was important to look at developing a multi-purpose harness that offers protection."

He said the heavy armour might be an option in some circumstances, but would not suit routine work.

"We're a dog-loving country and everyone wants our dogs to be safe. But not everyone sees what our business really is - it's about tracking, jumping fences and mobility."

The rollout is due to start next month, with all 130 patrol dogs across New Zealand kitted out by about October.

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