The use of police dogs in New Zealand has grown from a single fully-trained dog and some puppies brought over from England in 1956. It now has over 100 teams of patrol and detector dog teams.
In September 1956, Sergeant Frank Riley of the Surrey Constabulary disembarked from the vessel Hinekura after making the long voyage from England. What brought him half away across the world was the desire of the then New Zealand Prime Minister, Sid Holland, to have a police dog section after he saw the Surrey Constabulary police dog school during a visit to England.
Sergeant Riley arrived with his fully-trained police dog Miska, a nine-month-old dog named Dante, bitches Karen and Silver and twelve two-month-old puppies born during the voyage. Constable Colin Guppy, Dante’s handler, joined Sergeant Riley to become New Zealand's first police dog handlers.
A Dog Training Centre was set up in Trentham, Upper Hutt, in conjunction with the Police Training School. The Training School moved to its current location in Porirua in 1981 (at the Royal New Zealand Police College), but the Dog Training Centre remains on the original site. In 1996, the 40th anniversary of Police dogs in New Zealand, moved into a new, purpose built complex on the site.
Handlers were appointed for each of the original puppies, with the first to receive his dog being Constable Harold Surgenor of Christchurch. The handlers took their dogs home and over the next eighteen months they received regular training before they were ready for service.
Today the Dog Section is an integral part of the New Zealand Police, with an international reputation, but the first ten years were a struggle. Vehicles and equipment were hard to come by for the unit and there was no uniform. At one point the entire dog section came within two minutes of being scrapped. Constable Guppy and his dog Dante were instructed to carry out a tracking exercise in the hills behind the Dog Training Centre. Guppy was told where the "offender" was last seen, cast his dog and picked up a scent. They tracked the offender for two hours before finding him at 10.58am. It was only later that Guppy found out that if he hadn't located the offender by 11.00am the dog section would have been disbanded.
In 1972, training was given to police officers from Victoria, Australia to help them set up a dog section. Since then, training and assistance has been provided to other Australian states and to Pacific and Asian countries.
The first drug dog training course was held in 1976, followed. This was followed by the introduction of explosive detection courses in 1977. More recent developments have seen the introduction of the Armed Offenders Squad dog course (1992), accelerant detection (1997) and search and rescue (1998).
Police dog memorial
The safety record of police dogs is very high, considering that they are called out about 40,000 times a year. However, deaths and serious injuries occasionally happen.
- Gazza, killed in Porirua, 22 April 2016. Constable J Robertson.
- Gage, killed in Christchurch, 13 July 2010. Senior Constable B Lamb
- Enzo, killed in Tauranga, 09 Aug 2007. Constable K Cording
- Duke, died in Oamaru Senior, 18 Feb 2003. Constable W Phiskie
- Valour, killed in Kawerau, 08 Feb 1998. Constable B A McLeod
- Mal, died in Auckland, 03 Oct 1996. Constable S Salmond
- Jock, shot in Matata, 17 Jul 1994. Constable A J Staples
- Kone, died in an accident in Christchurch, 18 May 1994. Constable A Phillips
- Spike, stabbed in Tauranga, 15 May 1994. Constable J Roff
- Rex, died in an accident in Wellington, 20 Oct 1992. Constable G Gwyn
- Ryka, shot in Auckland, 15 May 1992. Constable S Shadbolt
- Lance, killed in Dunedin, 18 Oct 1991. Constable C Edge
- Josh, killed in Auckland, 25 Mar 1989. Constable C Howard
- Rada, shot in Hastings, 18 Dec 1989. Constable G Diver
- Ozi, burnt - Retired in Tauranga, 27 Oct 1988. Constable E Gorrie
- Sarge, killed in Auckland, 12 Oct 1984. Constable E Gorrie
- Luke, shot - Retired in Auckland, 28 Oct 1983. Constable J Donald
- Panzer, killed in Auckland, 11 Jul 1983. Constable G Bradford
- Ebba, run over in Auckland, 21 Mar 1983. Constable E Gorrie
- Jon, killed in Christchurch, 03 Nov 1982. Constable G Stock
- Barlow, died in Wellington, 21 Nov 1979. Constable A G E Rowlands
- Thor, run over in New Plymouth, 28 Jul 1977. Constable D McKibben
- Nick, shot in Wellington, 04 Dec 1975. Constable M Cameron
- Nero, died in an accident in Napier, 24 Nov 1972. Constable D Painter BEM