Rescue dogs sniffing out threats at Wimbledon

A pair of rescue dogs are part of a top canine team sniffing out threats and keeping the public safe at Wimbledon.

Explosive search dogs are being deployed around the clock at the championships this year as part of extensive security procedures.

Dave Storey, 62, a retired Metropolitan Police officer with 31 years of service, is out on patrol at 6.15am to search the grounds before fans arrive.

His rescue dog, a four-year-old English springer spaniel called Finn, is trained to alert his handler to suspected explosive substances through “passive indication”.

Dave Storey with Finn
Dave Storey with Finn

“For the majority of them the dogs will freeze on what they are focusing on,” Mr Storey explained.

“They can work up to about nine or 10 years old, providing they are fit veterinary-wise.”

Mr Storey said Finn became a searcher after struggling to find a suitable home.

“He was (in) two homes in his first two years which he didn’t fit in, because he comes from working bloodlines and wasn’t willing to be a pet, and really was a born search dog.

“He’s a very happy lad now, actually searching and working. He’s a lovely lad.”

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson

Mr Storey works for Tyler Security which is deploying search dogs day and night throughout the grand slam tennis tournament.

“Really it feels like you’re continuing on from where you left off, except in a private role instead of a police role,” he said.

“There has been more demand for explosive search dogs or search dogs in general,” Mr Storey said, citing the “current world terrorist threat”.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said it would deploy a strong presence of uniformed and plainclothed officers throughout the tournament.

Project Servator, a unit trained in intelligence-gathering, will be on patrol, while firearms officers and mobile reserve units will be on standby.

The two dogs take a well-earned rest
The two dogs take a well-earned rest

A spokeswoman for the All England Club said it worked closely with the police to ensure the championships “are as secure as possible”.

She added: “Dog detection services are part of our overall security plan. This year we have engaged Tyler Security to undertake regular searches of the grounds, to supplement the service already in place with the MPS.”

Despite his important role, Mr Storey said he does not mind the public petting Finn during his patrols.

“You even get people coming up and thanking you for what you’re doing,” he said.

His colleague, Dave Thompson, 59, another retired Metropolitan Police officer with 32 years of service, looks after Piper, a two-year-old rescue dog, half springer and half cocker spaniel.

They care for the dogs at home with their families, rather than have them live in kennels.

Mr Storey said: “My wife accepts the fact that I work dogs and they are part of it and she loves him just as much as I do really.”

Sniffer dogs on Wembley Way
Sniffer dogs on Wembley Way

The handlers said the search dogs have worked across London at Wembley and Twickenham stadiums, Chelsea and Tottenham football clubs and at the filming of Britain’s Got Talent.

The dogs are effectively in training their whole lives, but it takes about eight weeks to get them to a good standard.

Training involves safely exposing them to the smell of key substances through the use of rewards and toys such as tennis balls – something there is no shortage of in SW19.

Mr Storey joked: “It’s a search dog heaven.”