Police dogs and horses are set to get more protection from attacks after Michael Gove gave the Government’s backing to a bill implementing a so-called “Finn’s Law”.
Named after a police dog brutally stabbed while protecting his handler from a knife-wielding suspect, Finn’s Law will remove a section of the current law of self-defence often used by those who harm a service animal.
The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill was tabled by Conservative MP Sir Oliver Heald and was being debated in the Commons on Friday, but stood little chance of becoming law without Government support.
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’s handler Pc Dave Wardell, from Hertfordshire, said the dog – now retired – saved his life when a robbery suspect they were pursuing turned on them with a knife in 2016.
Finn was stabbed in the chest and head but did not let go until reinforcements arrived, and was initially thought unlikely to survive. But while the suspect was charged with ABH in relation to wounds to Pc Wardell’s hand, he faced only criminal damage charges over the injuries to Finn.
“My boy Finn, now retired, was one of several thousand service animals that work to protect the whole of society 24 hours a day, every day,” said Pc Wardell.
“When Finn was seriously injured it didn’t seem right to me or the public that he was seen as an inanimate object or property, in law.
“This campaign and Bill is my way of saying thank you to Finn for saving my life and to the many others for the truly outstanding and brave work they do every day.”
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 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.