North East Dog Unit celebrates 60th anniversary

Sandy Reid with PC Laura Fairbairn and PD Ava
Sandy Reid with PC Laura Fairbairn and PD Ava

The North East Dog Unit in Aberdeen has celebrated its 60th anniversary by bringing together its latest recruits and the unit’s first ever handler.

PC Sandy Reid and his dog PD Rennie were the founding members of the police dog unit in Aberdeen, and were first deployed in 1959.

Mr Reid, 84, visited the Dog Unit today (Monday, January 28) to gift Rennie’s original collar and name tag, and met with current members of the dog unit including recent recruits PC Laura Fairbairn and PD Ava to mark this significant milestone.

Sandy joined Aberdeen City Police in 1954 when he was 20 years old. He worked ‘On the Beat’ for a few years and was then asked to set up the first dog unit in the area. He and Rennie were the sole members of the unit to start with but Sandy gradually built up a team of handlers and dogs.

After setting up the dog unit Sandy went on to set up the Underwater Diving Unit for the Force and also the Specialist Policing Unit based at Aberdeen Airport. Sandy retired as a Sergeant in Bucksburn in 1984.

Speaking about the celebration Instructor PC Steve Warden said: “We are delighted to have Sandy back in the unit today to help us celebrate 60 years of the North East Dog Unit. Since founding the unit, there have been hundreds of dogs and handlers who have all worked hard to help keep people safe here in the North East. We are a very special unit and we assist operational colleagues on all manner of calls from locating missing people, searching for items such as weapons, evidence and drugs and helping control volatile or aggressive situations.

“Despite the many changes in policing in the North East over the last 60 years, it is great that the dog unit has remained and developed. We have a very strong team with a mix of experience but with the same dedication to the unit and the job. We hope that the North East Dog Unit enjoys many more decades of work.”

As part of the celebration, Mr Reid has donated Rennie’s original collar and dog tag which is engraved stating that Rennie was owned by the Chief Constable of Aberdeen City Police and has been framed as a lasting memento.

Retired officer, Sandy Reid added: “I have kept in touch with the Unit since I retired more than 30 years ago and it was great to celebrate this milestone with them today. The current dog handlers face much of the same challenges I did. It is a varied and exciting job to have but the most special element is the unique bond which develops from working and training with your dog.”

PC Laura Fairbairn has been a police officer for 12 years and recently completed her dog handler training at the Scottish Police Dog Training Centre. PD Ava is a two year old German Shepherd who was bred in the Czech Republic and sourced by the national dog unit last summer. Ava and Laura were paired up during Laura’s initial training and have been putting into practice what they have learned during their training.

Speaking about her new role PC Fairbairn said: “I’m really pleased and excited to be part of the dog unit. It’s a unique team and very different to the roles I’ve held within the police so far. Ava and I are getting on great. She’s a really good dog and we’ve bonded really well. She’s a general purpose dog so we get called to tracking and tracing calls at the moment.

"Once we’ve developed our experience and expertise I’ll take on a second specialist dog such as a drugs or explosives dog. At the moment I’m just enjoying getting used to working in the unit and looking after and working with Ava."