Retired police dogs sniff out new homes

An adorable project: Blitz leading Lim and Meals while on a walk after being adopted last year under Project Adore’s K-9 scheme. — The Straits Times/ANN

Arriving at her new home for the first time, Blitz, a labrador retriever who was then eight years old, proceeded to conduct a thoroughly professional search of the Housing Board flat in Teck Whye.

It was what she had been trained to do for most of her life as a narcotics sniffer dog in the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) K-9 unit, and Blitz was nothing if not a model professional.

But model professionals grow old too, and this was the beginning of a new stage – retirement – in Blitz’s life, even if she did not know it yet.

“She smelt the whole perimeter of the house and then went back to the door and was like ‘OK I’m done, let’s go’,” said radio deejay Jillian Lim, 30, who, with her husband Kenneth Christopher Meals, 31, adopted Blitz in January last year.

“She didn’t get if she was staying here or going back to camp, so it was an adjustment she had to make from working dog to domestic dog.”

Blitz was adopted under Project Adore’s K-9 scheme, which allows the adoption of retired sniffer dogs from the Singapore Armed Forces Military Working Dog Unit and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and SPF K-9 units.

Project Adore is administered by the National Parks Board, and the project’s K-9 scheme is driven by the Defence Ministry, SPF and SCDF.

Labradors, springer spaniels, cocker spaniels and pointers are the breeds currently eligible for adoption under the scheme.

The scheme, which started in June 2017, was initially open only to handlers from the various units, but was expanded in August 2018 to include members of the public living in HDB flats. This pilot initiative was extended earlier this year for another two years, until 2022.

Project Adore also allows members of the public living in HDB flats to adopt medium-sized local mixed-breed dogs.

Adoptions under the K-9 scheme have seen a slight uptick this year.

Of the 14 retired sniffer dogs from the SPF and SCDF adopted by the public under Project Adore’s K-9 scheme, six have been adopted this year alone.

Mindef said one military working dog was adopted under the scheme last year, but that figure has so far increased to three this year.

The number of dogs from Mindef eligible for adoption under Project Adore has also increased from two last year to six this year.

Adopters are screened by K-9 officers beforehand to understand their preferences and to match them with a dog.

K-9 officers will also visit the adopters’ neighbours to inform them of what to expect and ask them to get the officers’ help to mediate should any dispute crop up.

In Blitz’s case, any misgivings on the neighbours’ part soon faded away.

“It was something we were worried about, because people do tend to be wary of big dogs, but we’ve been lucky,” said Meals,.

Sniffer dogs typically enter service at around 18 months old, and retire when they are seven years old.

Blitz, who is now nine, had her career extended by a year before she was adopted, something that occasionally happens if K-9 officers assess that a dog is still fit for duty. — The Straits Times/ANN

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