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‘Wellbeing dogs’ help Police deal with traumatic and stressful events

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Two four-legged members of staff have become members of both South Wales Police and Gwent Police Force’s teams and are putting their best paws forward to support the mental wellbeing of police officers, staff and volunteers across both Force’s and build relationships in the community.

Carter, a four year-old Belgian Malinois/Shepherd and Winnie, a three year-old Cocker Spaniel, are the forces first Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs and have been in place since December 2020.

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They have a responsibility to provide a calming presence and have helped officers deal with traumatic and stressful circumstances and de-brief processes.

Kaylee Noble, who is trained in First Aid Mental Health, is the Dog Wellbeing Handler. Carter resides with Kaylee and Winnie with Kaylee’s Sergeant, Andrew Patterson.

“Now I don’t like to say they failed, they are repurposed!”, said Kaylee, “Carter and Winne didn’t pass their tests to become operational dogs, but their Wellbeing roles work better for everyone.

“They are familiar furry faces amongst the staff, and the three of us work six days on, three days off- wellbeing isn’t Monday to Friday, this is policing!

“It’s amazing to see just how much of an impact the dogs can have on officers and staff. Heart rates come down and they have an immediate calming effect. It’s completely different to when I used to walk into a briefing meeting on my own.

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Kaylee with Belgian Malinois/Shepherd Carter (Image: South Wales Police)

“The feedback we have had after visits has been so positive. People are opening up, who have never opened up before.

“I’ve been told the visits have really helped members of the force who are going through tough times.

“The programme wouldn’t have been possible without my Sergeant, Andrew Patterson, and South Wales Police’s Yard Manager Katrina Edmonds-Daniel who are such a big part of the team.

“I feel we are only just scratching the surface of what these dogs are capable of. The whole team are determined to make a difference to the force and wider community.”

Inspector Damien McKeon, South Wales Police, said: “When Kaylee walked into the PSC with Carter and Winnie with their little coats on and tails wagging the whole room just melted.

“The staff were immediately interested and queuing up to take their turn. You could sense the atmosphere in the room lighten. The staff loved cwtching Winnie and all you could hear was “oohs” and “aahs”.

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“When they left, the atmosphere was upbeat. It lifted their spirits and boosted morale. I really think the team benefitted from the visit and look forward to the next time.”

Carter and Winnie have joined the team via the ‘OK9’ branch of Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service (Image: South Wales Police)

Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales Police Mark Travis said: “We take the wellbeing of our officers, staff and volunteers very seriously and know how important it is, this is a practical and proven commitment to staff wellbeing.

“It’s no secret that working in policing has both a physical and psychological impact when we are involved with trauma on a regular basis.

“Dogs are great at helping colleagues to speak openly about the challenges of policing.”

Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, Gwent Police said: “We welcome Carter and Winnie to the team and hope their visits will help those they meet and bring about positive results.

“As two forces we work closely in collaboration in many areas, when our staff told us that this was a great idea, we had to make it happen.

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“The new wellbeing van is designed with all of the creature comforts Carter and Winnie need, it is important that we take great care of them as valued members of the team.”

The wellbeing van has been sponsored by Euro Commercials which will allow the team to travel across South Wales and Gwent force areas.

Although this is currently an internal-only resource, Kaylee has taken the dogs to community engagement events and the force hopes to increase their presence in community events and schools across south Wales.

Carter and Winnie have joined the team via the ‘OK9’ branch of Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service.

The service currently has representation from 30 UK Police Forces and Fire and Rescue Services across the country. The service aims to make wellbeing dogs available to all forces who wish to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision.

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