A FRENCH police dog killed in a raid targeting the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks is to be awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
Diesel, a seven-year-old Belgian shepherd, died on November 18, five days after the Paris attacks which killed 130 people.
Within hours of the fatal raid, the phrase Je Suis Chien - inspired by the popular slogan Je Suis Charlie, used worldwide in solidarity after the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year - had gone viral on social media.
Vet charity PDSA said Diesel is to posthumously receive the Dickin Medal, recognised as the animal equivalent of the military’s highest honour.
PDSA director-general Jan McLoughlin said: “Following the tragic terrorist events in Paris last month, where many innocent people lost their lives, Diesel was instrumental in helping the French police locate and deal with the perpetrators.
“When news emerged of Diesel’s death there was a huge outpouring of grief. As guardians of the world’s most prestigious animal awards programme, we were inundated by messages from members of the public to recognise his heroism.
“The PDSA Dickin Medal recognises conspicuous devotion to duty in the theatre of conflict and Diesel is a truly deserving recipient. His gallant actions helped to protect human life in the face of imminent danger and we are very proud to honour him in this way.”
The medal has been awarded to 30 dogs (including Diesel), 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat since its introduction by PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943.
Diesel’s handler, who cannot be named for security reasons, described the dog’s actions in his final moments when he was sent in to a flat thought to have included lead plotter Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
He said: “After a few minutes we decided to send in the dog to see if the zone was clear.
“He did a tour of the first room, then he went into the second room and dashed forward. I think he’d found someone. Then I lost sight of him and the gunfire started again.
“His role was to open the way for the rest of us. He uses all his senses to detect if anyone is present and if he can get to them, to go and bite them. If not, he stands and barks to indicate where the person is hiding.
“I had absolute confidence in him, and him in me. Both of us knew how the other would behave in the situation.”
At 10am local time, Diesel was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Diesel will be officially recognised at a service next year.