Canine hero’s festive food forage nearly ends in disaster

National dog welfare charity issues urgent Christmas food safety warning to UK pet owners as cases of festive food poisonings set to rise by 30%*

Dog welfare charity, the Thin Blue Paw Foundation has issued a warning to UK pet owners to keep festive food, which can be highly toxic to our four-legged companions, out of reach of curious doggy paws this Christmas.

The charity’s advice comes after one of the canine heroes it supports in retirement, former police dog, Jess (aged 9) a Labrador/German Shepherd Cross, sniffed out and devoured a mince pie at her home in Farnham unbeknown to her owner. These festive favourites contain raisins which are highly poisonous to dogs and can cause kidney failure.

Even in retirement Jess’s incredible search skills, which proved invaluable throughout her distinguished career with Surrey Police where she assisted the force on many challenging investigations making a huge contribution to society, are still clearly on top form. They are so good in fact, that when she caught a whiff of a mince pie hidden in what her family thought was a secure shopping bag located out of reach, she wasted no time in retrieving and devouring the potentially fatal snack which she tucked into alongside the other family dog, Jess’s canine partner in crime, Betty.

As soon as her owner, Claire Sutherland (53) realised what had happened, she rushed her beloved dogs to the local vets where they both underwent life-saving treatment against the effects of the poisonous snack. After 48 hours in intensive care, they happily pulled through, but the outcome could have been very different if Claire hadn’t acted so quickly.

Claire says: “I wanted to share what happened to Jess to raise awareness of just how toxic some foods are to pets. The fact she sniffed out the mince pie the way she did just goes to show how clever dogs are and we should never underestimate that. We want our story to raise awareness and hopefully it will prevent the same from happening to other pets this Christmas.”

According to Animal Friends Insurance*, which is supporting the Thin Blue Paw Foundation’s safety message and has provided vital sponsorship to the charity this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is spike of around 30% in claims for toxic ingestion during the Christmas season as inquisitive pets sniff out their owners’ festive treats.

Director of Marketing at Animal Friends Insurance, Patricia Gardiner, says: “During the festive season, most of us are guilty of indulging in one too many mince pies or Christmas chocolates, but while these tasty treats are ok (albeit a bit naughty) for us, they can be dangerous and highly toxic for our pets. Typically, the number of claims for toxic ingestion in cats and dogs rises by around 30% during the festive season and Jess’s case serves as a timely reminder that pets can sometimes get the better of owners.

“At Animal Friends we know that all owners regard their pets as heroes, so alongside the Thin Blue Paw Foundation, we’re asking the nation to do their best to keep festive treats away from pets this Christmas and familiarise themselves with what foods are toxic as many people simply aren’t aware.
“Typical Christmas foods like chocolate, mince pies, grapes, some nuts, onions, raisins, Christmas cake and pudding, and a sugar substitute called xylitol can all be harmful to pets. In some cases, just one raisin is enough to fatally poison a dog.
“Like all our cat and dog customers, as part of our partnership with the Thin Blue Paw Foundation, every dog registered with the charity now has free access to Joii, an online veterinary advice and treatment service that can offer vital support to anyone concerned about what they can feed their dog and how to keep them safe.”

PC Dave Wardell, Trustee, at the Thin Blue Paw Foundation says: “We’re delighted to have covered the full cost of Jess’s lifesaving treatment. Our police dogs serve their country with loyalty, bravery and courage, so it’s only right that they have the appropriate care and support in retirement.”

To help pet owners, the Thin Blue Paw Foundation has released a handy infographic highlighting all the festive foods that are dangerous to pets. Visit

Issued by The Thin Blue Paw Foundation – please credit in full when referencing the charity name. Thin Blue Paw Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales: 1190959
For more information and to arrange interviews please contact Mary Bawn at / 07977077884

About The Thin Blue Paw Foundation:
The Thin Blue Paw Foundation is a national dog welfare charity set up in August 2020 to support, rehabilitate and celebrate both serving and retired police dogs. Its four-legged Ambassador is now retired hero Police Dog Finn (Finalist on Britain’s Got Talent 2019 and of Finn’s Law), who was stabbed in the line of duty in October 2016.

Many people are unaware that retired police dogs do not receive financial support in their retirement from the force they served with, meaning the responsibility for their care and vet bills fall solely to their ex-handler or new owner. Unable to get pet insurance due to their working life, many are left with ongoing vet bills which can amount to thousands. The foundation provides much needed financial support to these unsung canine heroes and their owners to enable them to have a long and happy retirement.

The Thin Blue Paw Foundation provides much needed financial support to over 170 unsung canine heroes and their owners to enable them to have a long and happy retirement.

There are currently around 1,400 dogs that work on average 40 hours a week in the UK’s police forces today – many of which will suffer attacks or sustain serious injury in the line of duty. These brave canines are often faced with uncertain and difficult futures when they retire due to pre-existing conditions or the long-term effects of injuries sustained during their service.

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