A police dog named Axle has received an award for devotion to duty and bravery after he sustained life-threatening injuries tackling an armed criminal whilst on duty with Derbyshire Police in 2018.

Discussing PD Axel’s award, the PDSA Commendation, his handler PC Dean Allen said, “I couldn’t be prouder of Axle. He is an exceptional Police Dog who has displayed great courage and skill throughout his six years’ of service with Derbyshire Police. I was worried he wouldn’t make it after that night, so to see him not only make a full recovery but return to duty as well shows how special he is. It is a real honour to see him receive this award.”

The Incident

Axle was attending the scene of a domestic disturbance in the village of Riddings, Derbyshire last July. On arrival at the scene, two officers were confronted by 28-year-old Matthew Stretch, who attacked their police car. Stretch smashed the driver’s window and threatened the officers with a knife and hammer.

Back-up officers were summoned and Stretch ran from the scene. Police began a search of the area, conscious that their suspect was armed and dangerous. Resources deployed included a firearms unit, a helicopter and PC Dean Allen with his dog, Axle.

Stretch was eventually located by PC Allen and Axle in nearby woodland next to a disused canal. PC Allen instructed Stretch to stand still or Axle would be deployed. This warning was ignored and Stretch was pursued into the canal. There, PC Allen attempted to detain the suspect but he managed to climb out of the shallow water.

During the struggle, Axle was stabbed three times in his neck and body by Stretch, and he was instrumental in protecting the life PC Allen. Officers armed with baton rounds and a taser subsequently detained Stretch, who was arrested.

Axle was then rushed to a local veterinary surgery where he received emergency treatment for his wounds.

PC Allen said: “It was only we had detained the suspect that we were actually able to see Axel’s stab wounds. The biggest concern was the position of the stab wounds, you don’t know how deep they are, and they were very close to the spine. With the blood vessels running down the spine in German Shepherds it can be life threatening.”

Thanks to what officers describe as his ‘remarkable commitment’, he resumed his police duties with his handler following some rest and recuperation.

No officers were injured during the attack but the incident has had a lasting effect on those involved.

On 8 October 2018, Matthew Stretch was sentenced to six years and seven months in jail for threatening with a blade, two threats to kill and two counts of criminal damage. The trial was told he has 13 previous convictions for 28 offences including robbery and burglary.

Axle, PC Allen and other officers attending the incident have since been commended, in November 2018, for outstanding bravery by The Chief Constable of Derby Constabulary.

A New Law to Help Protect Police Dogs

In June 2019, new legislation was passed giving protection to service dogs such as PD Axle.

“Finn’s Law” is named after a retired police dog named Finn. After he was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell, a campaign began to fight for better rights for police animals injured in the line of duty, effectively giving police and prosecutors the ability to charge criminals injuring police animals in the same way they could/would if a police officer was injured on duty.

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