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The Million Dollar Question

From a serving SAR team member:-

The Search Dog Heroes project (SDH for short) is a million-pound funded project, working with Missing People and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. In short, it’s a lot of money, that has been generously donated by ordinary people, and in concept a pretty good idea. That concept was that 200 hundred dogs would be trained “to an operational standard” using this funding (as well as collecting and storing scent items off vulnerable people to help them be tracked in the case of an emergency). These 200 dogs would be “trailing” dogs, capable of following a specific scent derived from these boxes, as opposed to “air scenting” dogs that just detect any live or dead humans.

Part of the rationale for such a large sum of money being lobbed at the doggy set was that in all the years of training, arguing, dog-walking and setting standards in LR, zero trailing dogs had reached the required standard for deployment. Clearly a shake-up was required, and a big-money project seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.

With this much money at stake, the obvious criteria for a project lead would be:- someone who is heavily involved in Mountain Rescue, Lowland Rescue, Some Other Sort of SAR in the UK and who had a track record of working with and training trailing dogs, preferably with the Police in the UK. However, this was all a little too “obvious” for Lowland Rescue, who plumped instead for Ann-Jo Proos, who fits precisely none of these criteria.

She does however have a cosy relationship with the head of Surrey’s Dog Team. This was considered much more of a relevant factor than the fact that AJP is an individual with no operational experience, resides in France and, one might argue a dubious track record of training trailing dogs to any reasonable standard, but who is best mates with the Surrey Dog Clique.

Its worth just noting that AJP has never deployed a trailing dog operationally, and is certainly not well known for producing large quantities of trained trailing dogs. In fact, in the 2 years since the contract was awarded, only 2 teams have passed the assessment. One who provided accommodation to AJP on her visits to the UK, and the other based in the Channel Islands, who also stayed at the same address… 

These double standards were in evidence again when a number of handlers were strong-armed into travelling to France to train at AJP’s “facility”, and charged an arm and a leg for the privilege. Of course, those in the ‘inner-circle’ were not charged at all.

So, what have we achieved with the million pound bung? To date, 2 dogs have been qualified (one of whom famously indicated at a spot covered by 360° CCTV, that the misper had clearly never visited). The standards required by LR to qualify are now laughably low, as they rush to pass their mates before the money runs out. There are numerous tales of cheating – helping and nobbling the right and wrong candidates, as determined by the assessors. Some assessors were recruited who had never even seen a trailing dog work, just to try to salvage something from the scheme.

There are talks of plenty of moves of handlers from team to team, which was always the case, usually as the result of bullying. But more disturbingly there is talk of individuals and even teams leaving the LR organisation, because the reputation has been so utterly damaged by this fiasco.

As always, this whistleblowing site isn’t here to knock those that give their time to serve their communities. It doesn’t harbour a grudge against the organisation, its aims or the majority of the staff. What it will continue to do is point out where money is being diverted or misused, where laws are being broken, where there is hypocrisy and especially where there is bullying. This story has a sprinkling of all of the above, and we’ll keep you posted on any progress. You never know, we may have 3 dogs qualified if they give us another million quid.

6 replies on “The Million Dollar Question”

I am involved in dog handling, and this has caused some upset in my team and i think others to. i know for a fact that some of this is untrue An Jo has definitely run trailing dogs operationally for a start, and the project was more like 100k not a million.

Dear SARK9, just to be clear, we did not write the article, like a piece of journalism. It was sent to us, by a serving member, under a whistleblowing remit. Our remit is to allow this kind of information out, as we know that some teams do not handle criticism well – in fact they have a reputation for just firing anyone who questions their authority. So this site serves as a safe place to get stories out, otherwise they just get swept under the carpet.

But, of course we do want the information to be accurate. There is no justification for incorrectly accusing people of wrong-doing, so if you have any evidence that there are errors here, then use the anonymous email on the header to send it to us and we will amend. As always, everything is entirely confidential.

The number of errors within this article prove it to be quite a sad attempt by a jealous individual to de rail a very worth while project.
1) initially the the project was to produce 100 Not 200 dogs. This target was revised in the very early stages.
2) AJP has deployed operationally in her home country and overseas as a disaster dog handler and has been deployed operationally as a trailing dog handler by the French Police.
3)what is the relevance of where successful handlers reside during training? Assessment is carried out by LR assessors and an IQA – how is this different to any other LR assessment?
4) the LR trailing assessment has not been changed – it remains the same as it was at least 2 years before the SDH project began. I would further challenge that if the standards are so laughably low, why do we not have any more qualified dogs?? There are other training providers and other dogs training, where are they not putting themselves forward if standards are so low everyone should be getting through???As a member of LR if find it extremely concerning that an alleged fellow member thinks that lives would be put in danger just to tick a box. Ultimately that is what you are suggesting. By suggesting this you cast doubt on the entire reputation of search dogs and LR. Additionally do you really think either handler would want the responsibility of deploying without the knowledge and belief that they are good enough ????
5)handlers were strong armed into visiting AJP facility?!?!! Oh my word. This one is reaching just a tad. I have personally spoken to every person that attended AJP home and trained with her in France. Everyone received the same tuition and accommodation. No one person paid where another did not.
6) million pound bung? The total figure awarded to LR was more in the region of £350,000 (im not in possession at this time of the exact figure) as the grant was split between missing people U.K. and LR, with missing people in receipt of the significantly larger portion of funds.
7) “one of whom famously indicated at a spot covered by 360° CCTV, that the misper had clearly never visited” this is so famous no one seems to know about it! However, I’m not sure a trailing dog would indicate an area the misper has never visited? So, this comment whilst meant as an insult to the team on the ground clearly indicates the “whistleblowers” total lack of knowledge or evidence. Further to that, it is my understanding that handlers are not privy to information about cctv etc when being deployed. A trailing dog handler as I understand it, would be given a PLS or LKP, provided with a scent article and left to get on with it.

Whilst I totally support a persons freedom to speak and raise issues, I’m really really sad to read such an inaccurate and reaching article. All facts I have stated above are available to anyone – other than operational information which quite frankly should never be discussed in an open forum like this.
I truly hope that the people that have worked/are working so hard to achieve an operational status at an agreed national standard don’t get to read this utter slur on their dedication and professionalism as the initial article doesn’t merely tar SDH participants.

Well at least we know Simon Read (Lowland Rescue Lead – Search Dog Hero project) didn’t spend the money on donuts. That bent copper just steals them! (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8957195/amp/On-duty-police-officer-tried-buy-9-95-box-Krispy-Kreme-donuts-7p-Tesco.html)

Don’t hold your breath for Lowland Rescue to do anything about Simon Read even though he is all over the paper in his Lowland Rescue uniform, the Trustees are too busy digging their heads deeper in the sand

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