Following your article, Man left scarred after mauling by police dogs (Dec 2), I wish to give people an insight into police dog handling and training.
This incident involved a man in his 30s who received a dog bite at 4am in the grounds of the closed Seven Hills School, Sheffield.
The on-duty officer was there to exercise and train his three dogs. The grounds of the closed school were specifically chosen as a safe place and off limits to the public.
Sheffield council allows us to use buildings that are no longer in use and therefore prohibited to the public as areas to train dogs. We use a number of buildings such as disused schools, depots and even empty homes to minimise the risk of police dogs coming into contact with the public and because they replicate the type of surroundings the dogs are expected to work in.
The force has 40 general purpose dogs of various breeds, including German shepherds, Belgian shepherds and rottweilers. They are trained to locate and detain suspects, protect themselves and protect handlers. They are also trained to track suspects and locate items that may be linked to a crime. The force also has 22 specialist search dogs trained to search for a range of substances including blood, drugs, money and explosives.
With regard to the incident reported by you, during a training exercise, the three dogs that were being exercised came across a man among bushes in the grounds.
He then received a dog bite causing injuries to his arms. Handlers always carry out a risk assessment before deploying the dogs and in the early hours of the morning, in a restricted location, the chances of coming into contact with another person are minimal.
The man involved was wanted for being in breach of a court order and was arrested before being taken by the officer to hospital for treatment. The man appeared before magistrates and a continuation of the original order was given.
Insp James Revitt, head of South Yorkshire Police Dog Support Unit