British Fire Service dog receives PDSA Medal for lifetime of service
24 November 2023
Labrador Reqs honoured with PDSA Order of Merit
Britain’s longest-serving Fire Investigation Dog has been awarded a prestigious PDSA Medal for his unwavering devotion to duty and service to society during his 11-year career.
12-year-old black Labrador, Reqs, who has attended over 500 fires throughout his career with Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and assisted at many high-profile investigations, became the 42nd recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit* at a ceremony at Hertfordshire’s Joint Emergency Services Academy in Stevenage today (Thursday 23 November 2023).
Now retired Reqs and his handler Watch Commander Nikki Harvey, have been a vital support at fire scenes across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and the whole of East Anglia for over a decade.
His skills have not only reduced the time fire investigators have had to spend on scene, he’s also helped to find vital evidence, such as petrol, to be used by police in court. The evidence Reqs located has helped to put convicted offenders behind bars for a combined total of 250 years.
Commenting on the award, PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be honouring Reqs with our PDSA Order of Merit today. His outstanding devotion to duty and service to society has been demonstrated time and time again throughout his long career, and his exceptional skills go above and beyond that of normal companionship, making him a very worthy recipient of the award. Receiving the PDSA Order of Merit is a fitting tribute to his lifetime of dedication and hard work.”
To watch Reqs’ story and see his presentation visit www.pdsa.org.uk/reqs
Reqs’ career started in 2012 after he was chosen from his litter for having the correct attributes and high drive to become a Fire Investigation Dog. After undergoing specialist training, Reqs joined the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service where he worked until he retired in July 2023.
His job was to provide vital support at fire scenes, helping to identify the presence of ignitable liquids such as petrol, white spirit, and lighter fluid, which were often used as critical evidence in court. Reqs assisted many high-profile investigations for crimes such as fire, murder, and attempted murder.
- An incident in Leicester where 26 litres of petrol was ignited in a shop’s basement causing an explosion which destroyed the shop and flat above; sadly resulting in five fatalities. This became a national fire and murder investigation where Reqs was tasked with searching other areas linked to the incident and identifying vital evidence for the police, which went on to secure lengthy custodial sentences for three individuals.
- Reqs attended an incident involving the false imprisonment of a family in Surrey. The family were threatened and had petrol poured over them. The evidence that Reqs located at the scene was vital and secured a custodial sentence of 10 years, plus three years on licence for the perpetrator.
- After a house explosion in Clacton, Reqs attended the scene and set out searching the debris of the house. When the team heard a whimpering noise, Reqs immediately located the area where the noise was coming from and to everyone’s astonishment, there was a dog’s head within the debris. The team cleared the rubble and found a Border Collie. She was taken straight to the local vet who found she was suffering from dehydration after being under the rubble for two days.
Reqs’ handler and owner Nikki, who has worked for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service for 30 years, added: “Reqs is a huge asset to the Hertfordshire community and surrounding areas, he plays a vital role in establishing the causes of fires and without him, deliberate fires would take much longer to investigate. I’m so very proud of him, and it’s a real honour and privilege to see him receive this award today.
“Reqs is an amazing dog who as well as his devotion to duty and service within the fire service, he’s also a loving member of our family. He’s helped me through many tough times, at work and personally. Together we’ve attended some traumatic scenes, but he’s the one who pulls me through and we always had a hug at the end of a bad day! Reqs is retired now and enjoying every minute! He still loves playing with his toys and going on long walks.”
PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme was instituted in 1943 by the charity’s founder, Maria Dickin. She believed that, if animals were recognised for their heroic actions, it would help to raise their status in society, ensuring they are better treated. The charity continues this legacy today with the world’s leading Animal Awards Programme.
The PDSA Order of Merit, instituted in 2014, is one of four awards available. It recognises animals who display outstanding devotion above and beyond normal companionship, and animal acts that symbolise their special relationship with humans.
To date, the charity has awarded the PDSA Order of Merit to 42 animals, including 12 horses and 30 dogs including Reqs.
PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity which strives to keep people and pets together. For hundreds of thousands of pets and their loving owners, PDSA is a lifeline that prevents the unnecessary pain and suffering that may come from being unable to afford veterinary treatment. In 2022, the charity provided two million veterinary treatments to over 390,000 pets in its 48 Pet Hospitals across the UK. To find out more visit www.pdsa.org.uk