A NORTH Wales Police officer has been recognised by the RSPCA Cymru for ‘exceptional achievement’ in adopting an innovative approach to improving animal welfare.

A panel of judges ‘highly commended’ PC Gordon Topps, a police dog handler, based at Llandegai.

The force, and its dog section, were recognised in the Community Animal Welfare Footprints (CAWF) Innovator category in the LEAD initiative, and presented with a certificate at a special ceremony held in Cardiff Bay.

Working with the six local authorities across the region, the LEAD (Local Environmental Awareness on Dogs) scheme encourages responsible dog ownership

Launched in 2015, the initiative was expanded last year to include Celt – a robotic Golden Retriever – who has been visiting schools to teach young children how to behave around dogs.

The LEAD scheme is a police-led scheme, an founded by the Metropolitan Police, in the London borough of Sutton.

It provides advice to the public on dog issues, improves dog safety and dog welfare. It also deals with anti-social and inconsiderate behaviour by individuals with dogs.

Celt was introduced by PC Topps as part of the initiative to teach children how they should not approach dogs when they are sleeping or eating, and to remind them that they should ask dog owners if they can stroke their pets.

Children are shown images of dogs and asked how they would respond in the situations depicted before being introduced to ‘Celt.’ The robotic dog then responds positively to being stroked.

PC Topps said: “It is important that people understand that owning a dog is a responsible business.

”We are also encouraging owners, if a social housing resident, to register their dog with their landlord and are helping to promote free dog micro-chipping events across North Wales.”

Paul Smith, RSPCA public affairs manager said: “The judges were really impressed to see North Wales Police educating children from such a young age about safety and behaviour around dogs.”

Deputy chief constable Gareth Pritchard who holds the national police portfolio for Dangerous Dogs said: “We are pleased to receive this award. PC Topps has worked very hard with colleagues to develop this initiative, and it is well received by the community.”