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Europe’s first justice facility dog honoured with award

Oliver was one of five dogs celebrated during a recognition event held by charity ‘The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.’

Oliver, six, was Europe’s first justice facility dog. With a role of providing comfort and support to victims of crime, he will often sit with children during criminal justice processes such as reporting an offence to the police or giving evidence in court. 

He has now received a PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) Order of Merit during a ceremony held at east London’s Honourable Artillery Company. 

Oliver’s handler and owner Dr Liz Spruin explained that the work he has done has directly led to a pilot programme across four European countries and which is now looking to be extended. 

Dr Spruin, a lecturer in forensic psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University, saw the work of justice facility dogs in North America and trained Oliver until he was two.

“We are taking the human-canine bond, putting it in the criminal justice system… It means a lot,” she said. 

“We had a 12-year-old girl who had autism and she had been raped several times… and they couldn’t get her to talk,

“But when they told her Oliver was coming, she woke up at seven, wanted to go to the pet store to bring him treats, all she thought about was him.

“And they managed to get the evidence they needed to go to trial and put away her offender.”

Four other dogs were also recognised at yesterday’s event including the Met’s first wellbeing dog, Dexter. Originally trained to be a Passive Scan Drugs Dog, his overly friendly nature led to him being reposted to become the force’s first wellbeing dog. 

His first visits were to frontline staff both across the force and the NHS in London in the midst of the pandemic - where there were strict restrictions, he would make virtual calls. 

Dexter wearing his PDSA Order of Merit medal with PC Mike Sheather and PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing. 

Now he has completed more than 350 visits, including to Emergency Response Teams. 

Also presented with an award were Cocker Spaniel Clive who is a Medical Detection Dog, PTSD Assistance dog Jerry, and Border Collie Zak who spent 11 years with Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs, completing more than 300 missions and saving four lives. 

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