Hampshire Incidents

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Hero Hampshire search and rescue dog awarded PDSA Order of Merit ​

A hero search and rescue dog, who has been deployed by Hampshire Constabulary hundreds of times to help find missing people, has been awarded the PDSA Order of Merit


Zak retired in February 2020 at the end of his final deployment near Winchester after an incredible 11 year operational career with Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs supporting searches in Hampshire and the surrounding counties.


Zak’s handler, Kevin Saunders, said: “Zak has made a huge difference to many people’s lives and is quite simply, a hero.


“My work with Zak inspired me to join the Special Constabulary after my interest in helping to find missing people grew from my work with Zak. I owe a lot of my successes to our partnership.


“I am pleased to say that Zak is now enjoying his retirement living at home with me and my current operational search dog, Rusty, who follows Zak’s legacy of service. Zak now enjoys a much slower life with regular physio and hydrotherapy swims but still stirs when the callout tone sounds in the night.”


Hampshire Constabulary’s Deputy Chief Constable Ben Snuggs, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Search Dog Zak, a long standing member of Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs, has been recognised by PDSA in this way.


“I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting and training with Zak, his handler Kevin Saunders and his team. The skills that Zak displays and the experience he has chalked up over his 11 years of service with Kev are second to none.


“Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs work very closely with other volunteer search and rescue services and Hampshire Constabulary. I am very clear that with their unwavering support we are far more effective in searching for vulnerable missing people and preventing people coming to harm than would otherwise be the case.


“We, and countless others he has found, owe Zak a huge debt of gratitude and I know that all my colleagues in Hampshire Constabulary will join in celebrating and congratulating Zak and Kev for being honoured with this prestigious award.”


PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “The PDSA Order of Merit exemplifies the devotion between animals and humans. Zak’s unwavering devotion to duty, and the support he has given to so many people in need, makes him thoroughly deserving of the PDSA Order of Merit.”


Zak was presented with his award at the Honourable Artillery Company in London on Thursday, 14 July.  


For more information about Zak and his award, please visit www.pdsa.org.uk/oom-zak.