Cash appeal is launched to honour life-saving exploits of dogs of war
The life-saving work of military dogs is set to be celebrated in a series of bronze statues.
Fund-raisers in Melton have launched an appeal to recognise the efforts of heroic military working dogs and their handlers.
The appeal is to mark the work of the Defence Animal Centre (DAC) in the town which has been training the sniffer and guard dogs since 1946.
All the military working dogs on duty in Afghanistan detecting improvised explosive devices and protecting bases are trained in Melton.
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A group made up of Melton Borough Council, the DAC, Melton Civic Society and Melton in Bloom aims to raise more than £46,000 for the sculptures of the base's three main working dogs.
Internationally-renowned sculptor Lloyd le Blanc has been commissioned to make bronzes of labrador and springer spaniel detection dogs and a German shepherd, used to protect bases such as Camp Bastion.
Dinah Rudman, of the Melton Civic Society, said: "The work done by the dogs and their handlers at the base is something we should all be proud of. A lot of servicemen owe their lives to the dogs and we're hoping the appeal will attract a lot of sympathy from the public.
"We're hoping to tap into the support of businesses, the public and those who formerly served at the base to support the fund-raising effort."
The sculptures will be sited in a heritage garden in front of the council's new Parkside headquarters in Burton Street.
The type of work carried out by the dogs was marked recently when Theo, a springer spaniel, trained at the base, was nominated to posthumously receive the Dicken Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
Theo died of a seizure after his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, was shot dead by insurgents in Helmand Province in March last year.
Mayor of Melton councillor John Illingworth, said: "The sculptures will recognise the dedication of the protection and detection working dogs, and the links between the town, borough and DAC."
It's hoped a mixture of sponsorship by businesses and public support will raise the money for the project.
The base's commanding officer, Lt Col Richard Pope, said: "We want this dedication to cement links between the base and the town, and for it to be a celebration of the bond bet-ween the dog and the handler.
"The Royal Army Veterinary Corps Council has already pledged £1,000 to the project.
"For us it's very humbling. We will be doing everything we can to offer our support."
Donations can be made by cheques made out to Melton Borough Council, sent to its headquarters, Parkside, Station Approach, Burton Street, Melton LE13 1GH for the attention of Donna Bradbury and marked "Working dogs" on the back.