Order of merit medal for NHS Lanarkshire dog Sabby

PDSADirector General Jan McLoughlin with the dogs and their handlers
PDSADirector General Jan McLoughlin with the dogs and their handlers

Three heroic and devoted Scottish dogs were honoured on Friday by a veterinary charity for their bravery and devotion to duty.

At a special ceremony at the Scottish Parliament, Police Dog Ozzy became the latest recipient of the prestigious PDSA Gold Medal – the animals’ equivalent of the George Cross – for disarming a man threatening to blow up a block of flats.

Police Dog Sweep and civilian dog Sabby were awarded the PDSA Order of Merit – the animals’ OBE. PD Sweep’s award is in recognition of outstanding service as a detection dog, uncovering drugs, weapons, cash and poisons.

Sabby was honoured for her role within the NHS, supporting people with learning difficulties.

Thirteen-year-old Labrador Sabby (Sabakka) retired in 2016 after a distinguished ten-year career working with the NHS Lanarkshire learning disability occupational therapy service team.

During that time she worked alongside Jacqueline Evans, an occupational therapy assistant practitioner, helping people with learning disabilities in the community and the hospital.

Her warm and gentle nature helped her develop a special relationship with patients, allowing them to develop skills, make decisions and learn responsibilities, opportunities they would not have had without Sabby’s involvement.

Sabby has also worked alongside clinical psychologists supporting patients who suffer from extreme dog phobias. Her involvement has been recognised as a key factor in enabling these patients to become further integrated into their community.

Sabby’s work with the NHS Lanarkshire demonstrates the special relationship between human and animals.

Jacqueline Evans said: “After many years of devoted service, it is wonderful that Sabby’s skills and commitment to our patients have been recognised by PDSA. She is now enjoying her well-earned retirement and is greatly missed by all the patients and staff she has selflessly helped over the years.”

Police Dog Ozzy received the PDSA Gold Medal for his bravery and life-saving actions disarming an armed assailant threatening to blow up a block of flats.

Before his retirement, nine-year-old PD Ozzy worked for Police Scotland. In 2015, Ozzy and his handler Police Constable Brian Tennant, were called to an incident at a flat in Falkirk, where a man had assaulted two people at knifepoint. On arrival they discovered the man had severed a gas pipe and was threatening to blow up the building.

The occupants of the flats were evacuated, leaving PC Tennant and PD Ozzy able to enter the building. The armed assailant charged at them shouting threats, while attempting to ignite the gas with a lighter.

After warning the assailant PC Tennant released Ozzy, who tackled the man to the ground where he was disarmed and arrested.

PD Ozzy’s intervention prevented the man from harming himself and potentially others as well as causing extensive damage to the building.

Commenting on the award, PC Brian Tennant said: “Ozzy has been a loyal and exemplary police dog throughout his career. He has assisted with apprehending numerous criminals, saved lives and prevented countless injuries to members of the public and fellow police officers.

"Receiving the PDSA Gold Medal is a fitting end to his distinguished career, I am incredibly proud of him.”

Police Dog Sweep, a Working Cocker Spaniel, received his award for outstanding devotion to duty while working as Detection Dog for Lothian and Borders Police and Police Scotland.

During a career spanning 2007 to 2015, 11-year-old PD Sweep was trained to detect drugs, firearms, cash and poison and worked alongside Police Constable Rhona Meikle.

In 2012, PD Sweep became the UK’s only Poison Detection Dog, after being trained to find Carbofuran, a deadly banned poison used to target birds of prey. He remained in this exclusive role until his retirement in 2015.

The PDSA Gold Medal and Order of Merits were presented to PD Ozzy, PD Sweep and Sabby by PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin.

Jan said: "Each of their stories is unique, but they have all made a profoundly positive impact on the lives of people in Scotland.

Police Dog Ozzy is the 25th recipient of the gold medal, and Sweep and Sabby are the 5th and 6th recipients of the order of merit, recognising outstanding acts of devotion above and beyond normal companionship.