We spoke to Police Dog Handler PC Claire Todd about her very special staffie! Many thanks to Claire who took time out of her busy schedule to tell us all about Stella and her role within the police.
How did you and Stella first meet?
Stella and I met at West Hatch RSPCA in Taunton in January 2014. Her talent to search for a ball was recognised by Sue Dicks at the centre. Sue had contacted dog instructor PC Lee Webb from Avon & Somerset Police about Stella. I work for Gloucestershire Police and was looking for a new drugs dog as my springer Spaniel Barney was retiring. I went to West Hatch with PC Lee Webb to meet Stella.
Did you know at that stage that she would make the grade as a police dog?
As soon as I watched Stella search and find a tennis ball I was blown away with her search drive and determination to keep going until she found it. I knew straight away she would make a brilliant drugs dog.
What are the most important attributes for a police dog?
A police dog needs a very high search drive and ability, stamina and determination to keep going no matter how long it takes. They have to be environmentally sound, confident in all surroundings. Most of all they need to love a ball. All our training is reward based positive reinforcement training. Our police dogs work for us because they are having fun to them their job is a game, they search and find and receive their favourite ball as a reward. Stella doesn’t realise how important her job is, she just has fun every day at work doing her job.
What’s her personality like?
Stella has a fantastic personality. She is very loving she loves cuddles and gives sloppy Staffie kisses. She is cheeky and fun she loves her big brother German Shepard Quest they are best friends. Stella is older than Quest and when off duty at home she mothers him and cuddles up to him.
What’s Stella’s role within the police?
Stella is a drugs, cash, Firearms recovery and ammunition detection dog. She finds all types of illegal drugs, cash in sterling and euros. She can locate guns and ammunition.
How long did her training last and what was involved?
Stella trained in just 4 weeks (it’s normally a 6 week course but Stella flew through the training). Stella is trained to freeze with her nose next to the substance she has found. It is important especially with powder drugs that Stella does not touch them both for her safety and for forensic reasons. Stella is clicker trained so when she freezes on a substance, cash or gun she gets the click to mark the correct behaviour she then comes back to me for her ball reward. This ensures the ball is not thrown towards what she has found, again to prevent any contamination issues.
What would you say has been her biggest achievement to date?
In 2015 Stella won an Animal Hero Award for Service Dog of the Year. She was nominated after finding £25,000 in cash and her story hit the national newspapers as she was the first pure Staffie police dog. Staffie cross Kos from Avon & Somerset Police was the first ever Staffie Cross to become a police dog.
Following Stella winning her reward we were interviewed live the next day on good morning Britian. It was fantastic to show how amazing Staffies are and from that moment on Stella became an ambassador to show how amazing the breed is.
Stella also appeared on the Dog Rescurers telling her story on national TV. In 2016 we were invited back to the Animal Hero Awards as judges. In 2017 Stella appeared at Crufts with the East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Display Team in the main area. The team made us feel so welcome they travel around the UK putting on amazing displays every year.
Stella has over 14,000 followers on Twitter and started #StaffieSaturday to celebrate how amazing Staffies are and to try to help find homes for Staffies in rescues. Stella is a Senior Staffy Club Kennel Crusader. She donates her pocket money once a month to support a rescue dog kennel for a Senior Staffie.
She lives with you at home, what’s her favourite thing to do when off duty?
Stella lives at home with me she loves to chill out at home cuddling up to Quest or me or any family member. She loves giving cuddles. Stella enjoys her walks and playing ball in the field. Her favourite day is Sunday as she gets a tin of sardines in sunflower oil mixed in with her Normal food. Sardines are good for shiny coats and joints. Stella gives very fishy kisses afterwards!
Any top training tips?
Best training advice is to make training fun for you and your dog. Positive Reinforcement Training is the best way to train.
Say hello to gorgeous Maisy!
Name of dog: Maisy
Snooze on the sofa or romp around the park? Snooze on the sofa but if you put your coat on she loves to go for walks.
Favourite Food? Chicken and James Wellbeloved.
Favourite Toy? Ball that squeaks.
Tell us a bit about your dog ...
She loves being with people, loves to play with the grandchildren and my daughters call her the pampered princess!
Tell us why you love Prize Paws ....
I Love looking at all the photos you show.
Say hello to the extremely adorable Ripley!
Name of dog: Ripley
Age: 9 months
Breed: Norwich Terrier (Female)
Snooze on the sofa or romp around the park? Romp around the Park.
Favourite Food? Harrington’s Turkey Training Treats.
Favourite Toy? Beco Alligator.
Tell us a bit about your dog ...
Ripley is an entertaining personality with the funniest sounds (her bark is a quack!) and she snores to ask to go out, snuggles like a furry eel and has learnt the trick Wipe Paws which she does with all four paws - I’ve never seen that before and I’m a Trick Dog trainer!! Enthusiasm is an understatement lol. Friendly, outgoing, soothing, energetic and loyal she’s made our little family better by being in it.
Tell us why you love Prize Paws ....
I love the whole energy within the Prize Paws Group - the wonderful photos, the updates, the replies people give. It’s a great way to escape the real world and just absorb ourselves in the beauty of Dogs via photos.
We spoke to Gemma Handy from PAAWS Antigua to find out what life is like as a rescue dog on this Caribbean island.
Hi Gemma. Can you tell us a little bit about PAAWS Antigua. When was the shelter set up?
PAAWS was founded by Jenny Meston in 1996 as a friendly society and grew organically out of a foster care programme for dogs in need. The shelter in its current form has been open for more than a decade.
What are the main reasons that dogs in Antigua coming in to your care?
With so many dogs on the streets, and many of them with owners despite appearances to the contrary sometimes, we give priority to the orphaned, the abandoned, the abused and the sick. Often dog owners find that caring for a pet is a bigger responsibility than they had
envisaged and they end up homeless or in our care. Sometimes people simply cannot afford to keep them, particularly when an expensive medical emergency arises. Sadly, we get far too many that are thrown over the shelter fence at night; we go to great lengths to discourage people from doing this as they may have a contagious disease or, as is often the case, PAAWS is at maximum capacity and physically has no space to put them.
Having visited the island I was amazed at the number of strays wandering the streets and sadly we passed many dogs who had been killed on the road. Why are there so many strays on the island?
Many dogs, even owned ones, roam the streets freely due to both our benevolent climate and a different approach towards pet ownership than people in the US or UK might be used to. PAAWS is on a constant mission, in conjunction with the non-profit Spay & Neuter Clinic, to encourage people to spay and neuter their pets. We inform them about the health and financial advantages of doing this but also remind them that without such measures, the stray population will continue to increase exponentially which results in more suffering and also has a very negative impact on tourism, our country’s economic mainstay.
What are the main issues that dogs in the Caribbean face?
Heartworm is a big problem here and a common cause of death. Dogs in the tropics also suffer a lot from ticks and fleas too, of course. Tragically, many of them, particularly stray puppies, get hit by vehicles and are often left to die in the street. Another big problem is fatal poisoning – often deliberately by farmers fed up of stray dogs attacking young goats and sheep.
How many dogs do you currently have in your care?
PAAWS generally has around 60 adult dogs and puppies and about 20 cats.
You must have re-homed hundreds of dogs. Is there any one dog story that particularly stands out for you and if so could you tell us about it?
‘Hopalong’ was the sole survivor of a mass deliberate poisoning of about 12 stray dogs living at the tarmac plant near the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. I turned up one day to feed them, expecting them all to come running as they usually did. There was just a deathly silence and I feared the worst. The security guards (who had been feeding them scraps too) told me they had arrived at work that day to find them all dead. I found Hopalong foaming at the mouth in a corner and rushed her to the vet. Thankfully she was fine and was taken in by PAAWS. She earned her name on account of an old injury that causes her to walk on three legs. She is such a character, not least because of her huge toothy smile! We didn’t hold out much hope for her being adopted due to her age; she was estimated to be around 14 which is an incredible age for a stray. A few months ago she finally went home with one of our long-term supporters who now makes us all smile by sending us photos of Hopalong living out her days living in a comfortable home, probably the first she has ever had, with regular trips to the beach.
Do you re-home your dogs to the UK and if so what’s involved?
Yes, we rehome many dogs in North America and the UK too. There is obviously a cost implication for necessary paperwork, vaccinations and flights. It is a fairly straightforward process to Canada and costs around US$800. It is slightly more complicated for the UK and a little pricier too but can be done and we are happy to assist with the shots and paperwork for anyone who has fallen in love with a ‘Dadli Dog’ as they’re affectionately dubbed here!
Running a charity is obviously expensive. If I don’t have any spare money to donate what other ways can I help PAAWS?
Yes, our average monthly costs of US$10,000 are met entirely from donations. Vet bills, staff wages and utility bills are our biggest expenses. But PAAWS also welcomes your time too. Volunteers are always made welcome at the shelter from 10am-4pm Monday to Saturday. Our dogs are always grateful for an extra walk, while one-on-one time spent with humans helps socialise them, improving their chances of finding a forever home. On top of that, we also appreciate any help anyone can offer fundraising – perhaps by organising a bake sale, raffle or other event to help us with the ongoing battle of meeting our running costs.
If you'd like to keep in touch with PAAWS Antigua or perhaps you're planning a trip to the island, you can get in touch with them though their website
Or follow them on their Facebook page
To make a donation to PAAWS to help save the lives of strays like Hopalong click on the link below