The New Zealand Police has today unveiled its new purpose-built Skoda Superb Dog Units following a successful trial run over the past few months.
Over the last decade, officers have made use of Holden Commodores (VF) and Equinox’s to ferry their criminal-catching canines between callouts but needed a suitable vehicle to replace them with as they have begun to show their age. With the Australian carmaker no longer on the scene, the tried-and-true all-wheel drive Skoda appeared to be the obvious pick for the job.
The Superb station wagon has already been in use for community and highway patrol since 2020 and has since proved itself well with dog handlers during a four-month trial in the Waikato who reported that the vehicle was more dog-friendly, user-friendly, and faster to deploy from.
A prototype version of the car was developed by Police partner Wade Group which handlers were impressed with after they tweaked things like the “dog pod” temperature settings, the vehicle’s controls, as well as the reconfiguration of the storage compartments.
The boot of the station wagon is now home to a kennel with two separate areas, one of which features a rear exit for the dog as well as a front exit that allows the canine to be rapidly deployed through the Superb’s rear passenger window remotely. This means the vehicle is not left in a vulnerable state during an operation and the dogs can exit the vehicle quickly when they need to.
Other features that aren’t present in the Police’s Holden dog fleet include sensors that automatically switch on fans at a certain temperature which can also be monitored remotely, an air-conditioned section for the dogs, and magnetic water bowls.
The rear seats have been replaced and are now home to two storage compartments either side, one for vests and the other for firearm storage, and can be accessed via both rear passenger doors.
The modern day unit is a stark contrast from the original EH Holden of old which first introduced a fleet for the Police’s dogs in 1965. However, these were originally made to transport prisoners before the force’s furry friends and its clear to see just how far technology has come since then.
“We’ve got a dog vehicle that’s more functional and robust for staff, and prioritises the welfare of our dogs,” says Inspector Brian Yanko, Manager for the NZ Police Fleet Service Group.
“Both the Holden VF Utilities and Holden Equinox’s have been used over the last decade, and they have served us incredibly well. Since we need to look at replacing them, now is the time make sure the next version meets the demands of the job. This has been done in collaboration with operational police dog handlers and the Fleet Service Group.”
The first vehicles have already been deployed in the Waikato with a second unit set to head out on duty in Auckland within the coming days.
Between 15 and 20 Police Dog Units will hit the roads before the end of June, with a further 70 on the way before the end of 2023.