Sussex Police is to provide its firearms support dogs with body armour to reduce the risk of them being injured by gunfire.

The force has been carrying out a three-month trial on the coats, which has so far proved successful.

Assistant manager for the Sussex Police dog unit, Pete Sims, says: “”Our dog’s welfare is of paramount importance and this coatprovides 80% percent protection, covering all the vital organs, except the head. The trials also showed that this design didn’t impede the dog’s work.

“The armour is used a lot in the United States, but we are one of the first to use it here.”

The force is buying three sets of armour, each costing £500. One will be used for training and there will be a set put on each of the two instant response vehicles. These will be available for whichever of the force’s five trained firearms dogs is on patrol when they are called to an incident where guns are involved.

Callgoes out for canine recruits

Competition for pure bred-German Shepherd dogs by security companies, the RAF, Army and Police is now so fierce that Thames Valley Police has run short. It has launched an appeal to recruit puppies between 10 to18 months old.Dog trainer, Sgt Jerry Cox said: “They should have a very strong motivation to retrieve and be keen to play and interact with people. They should be well socialised, possessive, bold and inquisitive, but definitely not aggressive. They must also be happy to travel in a car or van.”

Anyone who thinks they may have a suitable dog should contact Sgt Cox or Richard Evans (tel: 01189325560).