The former Mid Suffolk District Council offices in Needham Market have temporary occupants: Suffolk Police dogs in training.
The offices in Needham Market, which Mid Suffolk District Council vacated in November last year, are now in use to train police dogs for Suffolk Police.
Suffolk Police’s Dog Section trains general purpose dogs (German shepherds) as well as specialist dogs (spaniels and Labradors) in both outdoor and indoor environments. The former offices in Needham Market offer an ideal opportunity to train these dogs in an office environment in which the dogs can train in tracking down people, drugs, explosive training aids, cash, ammunition or firearms.
On Monday 21 January the first three dogs – Ivan, Zuma and Woody – were taken to the former offices. Ivan, a German Shepherd, was tasked with tracking down PC Tony Russell, located somewhere in the building, after which Zuma and Woody, both Springer Spaniels, were set to locate hidden drugs by PC Simon Hughes.
Police dogs undergo a rigorous 13 week training programme when first learning their role, followed by regular training sessions until they retire.
The training is an interim measure while the long-term future of the site is secured. As part of the training Suffolk Police could arrive at the offices at any time of day or night to allow the trainee dogs to get used to the unpredictable schedule of police work.
Residents who see police vehicles attending the site at odd hours should not be alarmed as this is part of the training. The former offices in Needham Market are also protected by 24/7 security to ensure there is no misuse of the site. All equipment used in the training of the dogs is brought to the site by Suffolk Police, and removed again when the dogs leave.
The use of the site is being provided to Suffolk Police by Mid Suffolk District Council at no cost, in the interests of making the best use of the public sector estate in the county for Suffolk residents.
Cllr Nick Gowrley, Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and Cabinet Member for Assets and Investment, said: “The former offices in Needham Market is a key site within the town, and we’re working hard to secure a future for the site that will help Needham grow and be the stronger for it. While we do so, we want to put the site to the best possible use. Welcoming PC Russell and his police dogs to the site not only helps Suffolk Police prepare their Dog Section for any emergency, it also makes sure the former officers are still being used for the people of Suffolk.
“This is an interim measure, and we will be updating residents shortly on what comes next at the site.”
Temporary Sergeant James Thomas of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “We are extremely grateful to the district council for allowing us to use this space for general and specialist training as it is of great benefit to the force and the dogs.”
Photographs of Ivan, Zuma and Woody undergoing training in the former offices are available on the council's Flickr pages.