Hero dog handlers who saved Centrale shopping centre from rioters to be made redundant by Croydon Council
Two hero dog handlers who bravely fended off rampaging looters at the height of 2011's riots are set to be made redundant by the council.
Paul Dance and Steve Salmon are among 15 employees who face losing their jobs as Croydon Council prepares to axe a security team to save money.
The mobile enforcement unit currently works around the clock 365 days a year, responding to security breaches and anti-social behaviour at the borough's parks, schools and other council-owned properties.
Ten dog handlers, two supervisors, two kennel hands and a dog trainer will all lose their jobs under the plans, which would save the council £200,000 a year.
It means Mr Dance, 44, of Old Coulsdon and Mr Salmon, 55, of Bromley, could be out of work by August after more than 20 years of service.
It comes only a year after the pair received commendations from Croydon police's borough commander for their bravery in helping to save Centrale shopping centre from devastation during the riots.
The two dog handlers and their German Shepherds Molly and Cody were sent into the mall with no police escort and found thieves ransacking a department store.
Mr Dance, who now works alongside two-year-old Bess, said: "As we got to House of Fraser it was just bedlam.
"It was like a bomb burst out of the shop - there must have been 70 people in there. The dogs started barking and we helped to arrest five people.
"Others got away but we had basically saved Centrale."
The council praised the dog handlers for tackling the disorder, naming them employees of the month.
But a 90-day consultation on their redundancy will begin on Friday.
Mr Dance said: "I'm gutted. I've worked for the council for 26 years. There is so much we do that people don't know about - schools, break-ins, everything."
Jim O'Brien, a warden at Wandle Park, said: "They are our first port of call if we have any trouble. We call them before the police. I don't know what we would do without them."
Kevin Simmons, branch secretary of Unite, warned the unit's dogs could be hard to rehome.
He said: "Some of the dogs will probably go home with handlers, some of them will go to the security industry. But if that doesn't happen they will have to be put down."
A council spokesman said: "The council is having to make savings and will be consulting with staff as part of a review of the mobile enforcement unit.
"We would work with existing handlers to ensure the dogs go to good homes. The land would be made available to the council’s property assets team to consider selling."