Attacking police animals could become criminal offence
It could soon be a criminal offence to attack a police dog or horse after Michael Gove gave the government's support to a bill implementing "Finn's Law".
Named after brave police German shepherd Finn, who was stabbed in the head and chest while chasing a robbery suspect, a Service Animals Offences Bill will be read in parliament on Friday and is likely to have more of a chance of becoming law now that there is backing from government.
Criminal damage is currently the only available charge for someone who attacks a police or service animal – even though dogs are often bitten, kicked and strangled while in the line of duty.
Finn's Law would make it a specific criminal offence to attack a police animal.
Announcing his backing, the environment secretary said: "This Bill will offer stronger protection for the many brave service animals that help to protect us.
"This Government is continuing to raise the bar on animal welfare, whether it be for our beloved pets, brave service animals or on farms."
Finn saved his handler PC Dave Wardle's life while they chased a robbery suspect in 2016.
The suspect injured PC Wardell's hand and stabbed Finn in the head and chest as he tried to stop him from getting away.
While the suspect was charged with actual bodily harm for his injuries to PC Dave Wardell, he was only charged with criminal damage for almost killing Finn, as dogs are considered property in the eyes of the law.
The Bill would amend a 2006 Animal Welfare Act to address concerns about defendants' ability to claim they were justified in using physical force to protect themselves from a service animal.
Sir Oliver Heald, who tabled the bill, said he was "delighted" at receiving government support and was now looking forward to the legislation passing through parliament.
"This is a good day for all of our brave service animals," said the North-East Hertfordshire MP.
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PC Dave Wardell spoke to Sky News in February about Finn's story.
"If we are going to put them in dangerous positions then the least we can do is protect them," he said.