What is the Defence Animal Training Regiment (DATR)?

1.0 Introduction

This article provides an overview of Defence Animal Training Regiment (DATR), a unit of the British Army’s Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC).

The DATR was formerly known as the Defence Animal Centre.

2.0 What does the DATR Do?

The DATR delivers animal handling training for more than 400 personnel and role specific training for hundreds of Military Working Animals per year.

Charged with the basic care of these animals at the DATR is a staff of Ministry of Defence (MOD) civil servants; while dogs on courses are trained and managed by military dog trainers and instructors (Apthorp, 2017).

Veterinary care, rehabilitation and welfare is provided by military veterinary staff, supported by civilian experts as needed.

Furthermore, a number of staff are retained on site with additional skills to provide physical therapies to improve animal performance and welfare, such as physiotherapy, grooming and dentistry.

The DATR also maintains the site as a training area for the mounted regiments and the dog units, and at any time there may be animals on site taking advantage of these facilities.

3.0 What is the Role of the DATR?

DATR Headquarters is responsible for the delivery of Army Military Working Dog Handler recruit and Reserve training along with the provision of annual Military Skills and Physical Training for all service personnel at the unit.

4.0 Where is the DATR?

The DATR is located at Remount Barracks, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

5.0 Brief History

Below is a brief outline of the history of the DATR (Apthorp, 2017):

  • The unit has been based at Melton Mowbray since around 1905.
  • Initially it was just an equine remount centre, providing new horses to the Field Army, and since the end of World War 2, the centre has procured and trained dogs for military service.
  • The role of the centre and its size and shape has changed little over the last 50 years, though it has been subordinated under different parent organisations during that time.
  • RAF Police dogs began to be trained at the Centre from 1994, after merging RAF and Army dog training in April 1991.
  • From 2000 the centre was delivered through a Private Finance Initiative until 2010 when it was returned to Ministry of Defence
  • The Army School of Equitation’s indoor riding school was opened by Princess Anne on 28 February 2008.
  • It was renamed the Defence Animal Training Regiment in 2017.

6.0 Interesting Statistics

  • Dogs, there are routinely:
    • 230 dogs on site;
    • 150 dogs under training;
    • 60 dogs supporting soldier/airperson courses; and
    • 20 ‘in-patients’ receiving veterinary care and rehabilitation.
  • Horses, depending on the stage of the state ceremonial season:
    • Care for up to 360 horses;
    • 36 required for courses;
    • 30 will be remounts or pending retirement;
    • 20 will be veterinary ‘in-patients’ referred for care by the mounted regiments; and
    • Any remaining horses are ‘resting and recuperating’ between state ceremonial events.

7.0 Organisation of the DATR

The unit is a joint service establishment with serving personnel from several Army regiments and the Royal Air Force Police.

The DATR is composed of:

  • Headquarters DATR.
  • Canine Training Squadron.
  • Equine Training Squadron.
    • Also contains the School of Farriery.
  • Veterinary Training Squadron.

7.1 Canine Training Squadron

Canine Training Squadron (CTS) is responsible for delivering trained Military Working Dogs (MWDs) to an array of customers within the MOD.

Within the UK Armed Forces there is a current requirement for over 200 trained MWDs to be delivered per annum. The quality of the animals delivered to the end user is extremely high with most specifications of MWD being purchased from the European market where the standard of dogs available for purchase is at present excellent.

CTS is also responsible for the instructional training of UK Armed Forces and MOD personnel.

Additionally, role specific courses are occasionally provided to foreign customers in line with current defence relations around the world.

DATR students are taught how to handle, train and most importantly look after their Military Working Dog’s welfare, including animal husbandry, kennel management and veterinary first aid.

The squadron runs effectively 365 days per year due to the consistent animal care provided by its very own, on location Veterinary Hospital.

7.2 Equine Training Squadron

Equine Training Squadron (ETS) is responsible for providing trained horses and equine personnel including riders, instructors and farriers for the mounted units of the Household Cavalry. The Household Cavalry maintains a world famous tradition dating back to 1660 and consists of both the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. As the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army, they are the public face of the British Army as mounted escort to Her Majesty The Queen.

ETS also houses the School of Farriery, which is responsible for the apprenticeship of Military Farriers. DATR’s School of Farriery is officially recognised by the Worshipful Company of Farriers and the Farriers Registered Council. In line with this International Farrier competitions are held at DATR annually.

At present, 140 horses can be stabled within ETS and a total of 260 horses can be grazed in the surrounding fields of the beautiful sweeping countryside owned by DATR.

7.3 Veterinary Training Squadron

The veterinary service is well established within the Armed Forces and Veterinary Training Squadron (VTS).

It is responsible for delivering primary and secondary healthcare to the military working animals based at DATR.

Additionally, VTS acts as a referral service for all Military Working Animals within the MOD, providing both routine and specialist treatments.

Within VTS, qualified veterinary personnel are trained for military duties and young Veterinary Officers are developed within the first 12 months of their career.

VTS works hand in hand with CTS and ETS, to deliver veterinary training to a variety of DATR courses and defence approved external agencies.

8.0 Military Working Animal Retirement

At the end of their service lives, military animals are retired like any other serviceman, according to the MOD.

Following a stint with specialist trainers for ‘de-training’, working dogs are prepared for rehoming within the civilian population, or with ex-military dog handlers; while, following a service life that can be a decade or more, horses are retired with equine charities which strive to offer them the relaxing retirement they deserve.

9.0 References

Apthorp, C. (2017) Inside the Defence Animal Training Regiment: Britain’s school for army animals. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army-technology.com/features/featureinside-the-defence-animal-training-regiment-britains-school-for-army-animals-1-5921352/. [Accessed: 11 March, 2020].

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