Fine Traditions - A History of the NSW Police Dog Unit

The Dog Unit was first formed in 1932 under Constable Scotty Denholm and resulted in the successful deployment of historically renowned Police Dogs such as "TESS", "ZOE", "SOURI" and a bloodhound called "DISRAELI". All these dogs worked for the State of New South Wales, becoming invaluable crime fighting tools.

The NSW Police Force finally decided to implement Police Dogs after a sensational hunt for a murderer by the name of Moxley in Sydney. Moxley, a well-known criminal had brutally murdered a young couple and in a bid to flee pursuing police, he moved cross-country from Holdsworthy to Narrabeen. An extensive manhunt followed. This manhunt was extremely labour-intensive with many twists and turns taken. After Moxley’s eventual arrest, the circumstances of the manhunt were reviewed. During this review, the observation was made that the use of a trained tracking dogs would have dramatically shortened the manhunt.

The site for the first NSW Police kennels was in Alexandria, a crowded industrial suburb of Sydney, which in the nineteen thirties still included much swampy wasteland. The kennel area doubled as a holding yard for exhibits. At the time, the NSW Police Commissioner thought dogs could guard the exhibits in their downtime after training, thus getting value for money from both the dogs and handlers. The nearby marshlands provided a good area for tracking training. Many of the stories and exploits of these early police dogs and their handlers have been documented in a book entitled "The Cold nose of the Law’ by C. Bede Maxwell (1948).

In 1954, the Unit was disbanded for a short period of time before re-commencing modern day operations in 1979. During these latter years, the Dog Unit has changed structure a number of times, alternating from central command to four separate regions before it was centralised once again at Menai, Sydney in 1997.

Over the last decade, the Dog Unit has evolved, diversifying into the areas including firearm/explosive and drug detection work. This work has seen the Unit deploy Labradors as well as the standard German Shepherds and Rottweillers. Due to the current world climate in relation to terrorism and related attacks, emphasis globally is now being placed on K9 explosive detection work. In order to keep up with this trend, the New South Wales Police Dog Unit has grown to assist in securing the State of New South Wales.