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Undocked Ben's Police Career Cut Short

The Daily Mail published the following article October 14th 1999 titled "Dog who lost his tail and his nose for crime"

BEN the springer spaniel had all the qualities needed to be come an excellent sniffer dog - a nose for trouble, sharp eyes and an enthusiastic approach. But the 1 month old police recruit also had a perpetually wagging tail, which proved something of a liability.

At 16 in,, Ben's tail could give a mighty thwack and he constantly hit it on sharp objects or while tracking down clues in confined spaces. At one point, he managed to spilt it. But even with heavy bandaging, the wound refused to heal. In the end, his police handlers decided that docking could be the answer.

But when he returned to work after the operation, his talent for sniffing had vanished with his tail. "He was off work for two to three weeks but when he came back he just couldn't be bothered with the job", said his handler, PC John Taylor of Staffordshire police. 'He seemed completely uninterested, he was like a completely different dog. 'We tried really hard to coax him back to his old self but he was having none of it, he'd lost his passion for the job.'

PC Taylor said Ben had been doing well during an intensive eight-week training course at force headquarters in Stafford, where he was learning to sniff out drugs and explosives. But his wayward tail was constantly injured. 'When the dogs carry out a search it's like a game to them,' he said. 'They are enthusiastic and wag their tails. Ben was always bouncing around. Unfortunately, some searches are carried out in confined areas and Ben knocked his tail leaving it split.'

Ben retired early from the police but, now 21 months old, has started a new life as a pub puppy with Susan and Philip Kirkham, who run The Grapes near Stoke-on-'Trent. "He loves playing with all our regulars. We hide one of his toys and he dashes off to fetch it. He certainly hasn't lost all the police taught him.'

Comment from the CDB

The sad case of Ben the springer spaniel shows the importance of tail docking to his breed, says the Council of Docked Breeds. Staffordshire Police sniffer dog Ben suffered constant damage to his undocked tail during the course of his duties. His boisterous tail-wagging whilst hunting for drugs and explosives left his tail raw and bleeding - so much so that his handlers decided that the only option was to amputate it. Sadly, this put an end to Ben's professional career, as the operation also cut short his enthusiasm for police work.

"It only goes to show that whatever situation a spaniel finds itself in, an undocked tail can be a liability," said Ginette Elliott of the Council of Docked Breeds. "It's not just gundogs that damage their tails. The problem is one which is faced by all working spaniels, and even by many of those which are simply kept in the home.

We have constant enquiries from despairing owners whose pet dogs have cut open their tails on door posts, banister rails, even furniture." The CDB says that it is only now that undocked spaniels are being brought into the home or asked to work that people are starting to realise the importance of docking.

"If Ben had been docked as a tiny pup, like generations of spaniels before him, he would never have had to undergo such a painful operation in adulthood, and he would still be a police dog today," said Ginette Elliott.