Retired service dogs find homes with their former handlers in new scheme

Thaksin Toh with his retired K-9 service dog.ST VIDEO: LEE SI XUAN
Service dog Lucy and her handler on an explosive detection training exercise. ST VIDEO: LEE SI XUAN
Kristy, a 3-year-old K-9 service dog, with her handler.ST VIDEO: LEE SI XUAN
Thaksin Toh, 21, an ex-NSF who served in the police K-9 unit, pictured with his re-homed seven-year-old Cockel Spaniel (a retired K-9 service dog) at his house on June 9, 2017.
Thaksin Toh, 21, an ex-NSF who served in the police K-9 unit, pictured with his re-homed seven-year-old Cockel Spaniel (a retired K-9 service dog) at his house on June 9, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Singapore - The deal was sealed the minute Moss rushed out of his kennel and pounced excitedly on Mr Thaksin Toh, a full-time national serviceman newly deployed to the police K-9 unit.

Mr Toh's heart was won, and the handler and his co-worker, a cocker spaniel, became best friends.

Moss is now seven and has retired from service as a sniffer dog for narcotics in Changi Prison.

Just last month, he moved into his new retirement home: Mr Toh's 4-room flat in Geylang Bahru, under a new scheme that lets former handlers living in HDB flats adopt the dogs they once worked with.

Mr Toh, 21, who completed NS in March and now helps out at his parents' food establishment, spent more than a year as Moss's handler.

"In that moment, we just clicked," he said, recounting their first meeting.

He also credits his interaction with Moss as the main catalyst that helped him overcome a childhood fear of dogs.

Since 2012, 562 dogs have found homes under Project ADORE, which allows residents in Housing Board flats to adopt selected medium-sized local mixed breed dogs that are up to 15kg in weight and 50cm in height. These are rescued or former service animals.

Under a one-year pilot expansion of Project ADORE, dog handlers from the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force are now allowed to adopt retired sniffer dogs in Housing Board flats.

Dog breeds that are permitted to be rehomed under this initiative include Labrador retrievers, English springer spaniel s, cocker spaniels and English pointers.

At least 15 dog handlers who have expressed interest in adopting retired service dogs.

The pilot expansion is co-led by the Ministry of National Development, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.