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(Sussex Police)

A puppy who was abandoned in a bucket in 2019 is now a successful police sniffer dog.

Dustin (now called Badger) was one of four cocker spaniel puppies found abandoned in a garden in Surrey last year. The group of six-week-olds had severe mange, eye and ear infections, and required a lot of care.

Having recovered and found a new home, Dustin proved to be too much for his new owners to handle, but found his calling instead with Surrey and Sussex Police Dog Unit.

“Dustin was always on the go and needed constant stimulation and, sadly, he was just too much for his new owners," said Jo Douglas, from the RSPCA's Millbrook Animal Centre.

“So he came back to us. We kept him busy by hiding tennis balls around the centre and playing scent games with him," Douglas continued.

“He loved it and was really good at following his nose so we contacted the police to see if they'd be interested in taking him on as a new recruit."

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Dustin was paired with officer Steph Barrett, who renamed him Badger, and six months ago he qualified to become a sniffer dog.

The 20-month-old is trained to search for drugs, cash and weapons, and has already made an impact.

“When he hears the radio go off he squeals with excitement and I don't even have to ask him to get in the van. He's a joy to work with," said officer Barrett.

“He's hard not to love. He's still got that mischievous side to him but he's obsessed with work and he makes me smile all day."