Avon and Somerset Police dog hanging up his badge after years of catching criminals

Ronnie has retired at the grand old age of seven and is now getting used to life as a family pet.

A police dog is beginning his retirement in Weston-super-Mare after spending years with officers on the frontline.

Ronnie the seven-year-old Belgian Malinois served with Avon and Somerset Police and is taking on the new challenge of becoming a family pet.

He trained as a general purpose police dog and took on many challenges - from searching for vulnerable missing people, to securing crucial evidence on suspects.

It's those skills which have made Ronnie so successful, but which his new owner, Rhonda Hopkins, says has made his move to a quieter life more tricky.

Ronnie may be retired but he now faces new challenges posed by becoming a family pet and astronomical vet bills

She said: "With these dogs, they've had a lot of training to protect their handlers, search for people, so even on walks he will still search at the moment, because he thinks that's what he's doing when you take him out for a walk.

"[He thinks] 'I'm on a long-line and I'm gonna search for something', because that's normally what he does when gets out of the van."

Despite his varied career - which even included a bit of firearms backup - Ronnie was forced to retire a bit earlier than planned after he was injured by cows in a field.

But Rhonda believes Ronnie still has plenty of energy.

"I wouldn't say they're less socialised, but they're more job orientated", she said.

"When they retire, they've got quite a lot of energy, so you need to find ways to sort of exercise them, to keep their mental stimulation, their physical stimulation."

The family's child's toy is as close as Ronnie will now get to policing, having successfully served for more than five years

Perhaps the biggest problem for Ronnie and Rhonda is the cost of vet bills.

The cost of pet insurance is high but for an ex-police dog, this can be astronomical - and can even be refused.

Luckily, the charity WAGS supports retired police dogs and their owners in the West Country, providing financial assistance in emergency situations where a large bill from the vets may mean a decision is made about the dogs future based on cost.

"So, when a dog retires from their local police force, they don't unfortunately retire with a pension", said Megan Haldane, from WAGS.

"So, owners are quite often met with 'can we insure my new dog? Can I not insure my new dog?' And insurance can be very, very expensive - so WAGS step in to help support financially as much as we can with veterinary fees and emergency bills.

"Ronnie's been retired now for about four weeks and he's settling in really well, and he will live a full, happy retirement life and be an absolutely normal pet to have.

"He's settling in really well with Rhonda, so he will live as good a life as any," she added.