[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Family fight to keep police dog
Saxon with handler, Mike Townley
Saxon saved Mr Townley's life many times, say the family
A police dog who saved his handler from an axe-wielding attacker has been put on death row at the end of his service, according to the handler's family.

Saxon, a five-year-old German Shepherd, protected Mike Townley, 47, many times during his time with Gwent Police.

His wife, Caroline, say his licence has been withdrawn as he is now considered "unsafe" and could be put down.

She wants to keep Saxon as a pet. Gwent Police said Saxon's future was under consideration.

As a serving police officer, Mr Townley, a Home Office dog instructor, was unable to comment on Gwent Police's decision to retire Saxon from active service.

Two youths came out and wanted to beat my husband up - the dog stood in front of them and wouldn't let them near him
Caroline Townley

However, he has applied to keep Saxon as a pet and a campaign to see the dog released from the police kennels at Usk, Monmouthshire, has been launched by his wife, Caroline.

Mrs Townley said the family owed a debt of gratitude to Saxon, for saving her husband's life on more than one occasion, as well as "feeling hundreds of collars".

She said her husband was told last week that Saxon, who has represented the Gwent force at regional police dog trials, was to be put down and that decision had been confirmed.

Saxon
Saxon has been at police dog kennels for the past three months

She said: " This dog would have laid his life down for my husband. Mike was confronted by a man with an axe, who would have killed Saxon.

"Another time Mike was searching a scrap yard for some people when he fell and broke his ankle. Two youths came out and wanted to beat my husband up.

"The dog stood in front of them and wouldn't let them near him. He gave himself 100%."

She said the force helicopter once filmed Saxon chasing and rounding up four suspects who were on foot.

Mrs Townley said her husband has been told Saxon is unsafe because he bit Mr Townley twice in the first year they worked together.

'Destroyed'

But she said: "He says it was completely his own fault. The dog was being defensive. Mike said Saxon has not bitten anyone unless he has told him to."

Saxon and Mr Townley had worked together since April 2003. Mrs Townley said her husband was "distraught and extremely upset" at the force's conclusions.

Gwent Police said a dog's destruction was only considered if a force believes the dog in question cannot be re-homed, re-deployed or retrained successfully and therefore presents an unacceptable safety risk to the public.

The statement read: "In the past three years, 11 general purpose patrol dogs have been retired from the Gwent Police Dog Section.

"Of these six either went to live with their ex-handler or were otherwise re-homed. Five were put down humanely to prevent suffering as a result of old age, injury or underlying medical conditions, after consultation with a vet.

"During the same period there has only been one case of a dog being refused a license on grounds of safety.

"The dog concerned made an unprovoked attack on a kennel handler and after careful consideration it was decided that the dog should be humanely put down."


SEE ALSO
Police dog handler suspended
16 Oct 04 |  South East Wales

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific