Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has today supported public calls for a new law aimed at protecting police dogs and horses from being attacked or killed in the line of duty.
Jane Kennedy’s appeal comes ahead of a Second Reading in the House of Commons of the Service Animals (Offences) Bill, commonly known as ‘Finn’s Law’ next month. The Bill advocates the introduction of a new offence of attacking a service animal, including police dogs, and broadening sentencing powers in situations where a service animal is injured as a result of crime.
The campaign for ‘Finn’s Law’ was launched in the wake of the stabbing of police dog Finn in Hertfordshire in 2016, while he was chasing a suspect. Finn suffered serious wounds to his head and chest while protecting his handler, who was also injured during the incident.
Currently people who attack a police animal may be charged under the Criminal Damages Act 1971, which is primarily designed to deal with the destruction or damage of property, or under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it a criminal offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering. However, the maximum punishment under that legislation is six months in prison.
The Commissioner has today spoken out to highlight the inadequacy of existing legislation and has added her voice to calls for ‘Finn’s Law’ to be enshrined in law. More than 127,000 people have already signed a petition urging for UK Police Dogs and Horses to be given protection that reflects their status.
Jane said: “Existing legislation simply does not provide sufficient protection for our hard-working police dogs and horses, who perform a vital role in many aspects of modern day policing from community engagement and drug detection to the policing of public order incidents and during searches for missing people.
“We expect police dogs and horses to go into potentially risky and dangerous situations every day to support their handlers and keep the public safe. Finn’s Law argues that police animals deserve better protection than property and I wholeheartedly support that argument.
“Police dogs and horses are not merely police property – they are sentient beings who bravely and loyally serve the public. It is only right that they get the recognition and protection that they undeniably deserve.”
In many other EU countries, as well as Australia, the USA and Canada, provision is already made in law to protect police and service animals.
Sarah Dixon, co-director of Finns Law Ltd said: “It is totally outrageous and unacceptable that we, as a developed country that prides itself on its animal welfare standards, do not offer our police animals any real, effective protection in law.
“The fact that their status as a police animal effectively serves to exclude them from animal welfare legislation is distasteful to say the least. It is our duty and responsibility, as many other countries have done, to ensure that they are at least able to enjoy the same level of protection as a domestic animal. We are not asking for enhanced status. We are asking for parity.”
Find out more about Finn's Law.