West Australian K-9 Force
History of Police Dogs in Australia
Although the British had used dogs in policing since 1888, the Belgiums were the first to institute a formal training program for police dogs in 1899 in response to a crime problem in Ghent.
From the 19th century in Australia there were occasional examples of pet or stray dogs accompanying police on rounds, and providing assistance by their own initiative. In 1922 Victorian police decided to use pointers to accompany police on night duty, and in 1923 “dog recruits” were being trained at the Russell Street station.
A report in Adelaide in 1923 stated that an attempt at using a police dog in Queensland had failed “because the education of the (dobberman pincher) was not correct”, and that the South Australian Police Commissioner doubted that the use of dogs in the police force would be justified by the expense. It was not until 1930 that the first police dogs were being trained in Adelaide.
In 1931 Mr A. R. Vermeulen, a dog trainer in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, supplied dogs for the Victorian and South Australian police. New South Wales police started training two dogs for its new Dog Unit in 1932. (At the time Victoria police claimed that the breed in general had been “a failure”!) The dogs were trained in “all phases of police work; tracking, saving persons from drowning, dispersing mobs and protecting police from attacks.” However, the unit was disbanded from 1954 until 1979.
Dedicated ‘Dog Squads’ were started in South Australia in 1974, in Queensland in 1972, in Victoria in 1975 and restarted in NSW in 1979. The Canine Section of West Australia’s Police Force was started in 1993 with just two dogs! Tasmania started a Dog Detection Unit in 2003, but still was not using “general purpose dogs” in 2021.