Animals

Coronavirus: How Is Lockdown Impacting The Defence Animal Training Regiment?

The Melton Mowbray site is caring for around four times the number of horses than normal because of the pause in ceremonial duties.

The Defence Animal Training Regiment, home to more than 300 military animals, is having to adapt to life in lockdown.

Due to restrictions imposed over the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing practices have been adopted on the site in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

However, it is still partly business as usual, with handlers working to turn the dogs there into fully-fledged military workers.

Warrant Officer Jonathan Tanner, Chief Instructor of the Canine Training Squadron, told Forces News: "We have to stick to the Government-prescribed social distancing guidelines of two metres between people.

"But our own guidelines insist that there are five metres in between dogs on the lead anyway, so we have no issues with sticking to those Government guidelines.”

For the more than 100 working dogs on-site, life for them has not changed too much. Training of people, on the other hand, has had to stop.

180 acres of the base has been put aside as grazing land to help cope with the increase in the number of horses.

"In line with many other military establishments, training of people has been temporarily suspended, so we are standing ready to reactivate that training engine," said Major Drew Tootal, Regiment Second in Command.

“What we haven't been able to do, is just turn off that training for the animals.

"So the dogs, in particular the training in itself, is mentally stimulating - it's absolutely essential for their wellbeing and for their mental health.

"Whilst we've changed the way in which we've done it, we are still having to carry out that training so that they can be maintained, so when the training pipeline does come back online, we can do it as seamlessly and painlessly as possible."

There are currently more than four times the amount of horses staying on the site as there would usually be because of the pause in ceremonial duties.

To care for the increased number of horses, manpower and land has been freed up.

“Of the 350 acres, we’ve got about 180 acres of purely grazing land," Major Tootal said.

The horses will return to London once the regiments can go back to their ceremonial duties.