THE family of a retiring police dog handler campaigning for him to keep his police dog say they are in utter shock after West Mercia Police refused their request.

Dog handler Sergeant David Evans had asked if police dog Ivy could retire alongside him so the devoted pair did not have to be separated.

However West Mercia’s chief constable Anthony Bangham confirmed yesterday that the dog would stay with the force.

He said it was in the best interests of the dog and the force for Ivy to be rehomed with another handler.

Mr Bangham met with Sergeant Evans after a petition set up by the policeman’s daughter, Jennie, attracted more than 35,000 supporters.

She had argued that removing Ivy from her loving home would cause distress and heartbreak and said it was a sad way for the force to repay her dad’s 34-years service.

However, Mr Bangham said: “We appreciate that all our handlers form close relationships with the dogs they work with and, understandably, many want to continue that relationship when they retire.

“Sometimes at the end of the dog’s working life we are able to facilitate this but we always have to consider the needs of the dog and the force at the time and to meet our obligation to spend public funds wisely and ensure best value from all our resources.

“Although the dogs live with their handlers and have close relationships with them, they are not family pets. They belong to the force and are highly valued resources.

“PD Ivy is very young and has many years service ahead of her.”

He added he had met with Sergeant Evans and offered a number of alternative options but these were rejected.

He also thanked him for his service and wished him a long and happy retirement.

Jennie Evans, from Telford, told supporters: “We, as a family are utterly devastated at this news and also in complete and utter SHOCK that this is the decision West Mercia have decided is best for Ivy.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for all the support shown on this petition.

“I am not ready to leave this fight and I will be looking into other options to try and change this outcome.”