On Monday 14th November last year and in response to a petition with over 100, 000 signatures, there was a Westminster Hall debate on giving status to Police Dogs and Police Horses as Police Officers, in order to enshrine the rights of these brave animals in law.
The associated “Finn’s Law” campaign was named after a police dog called Finn, who was stabbed in the head and chest while chasing a suspect in October last year. Shockingly, people who currently attack police animals can be charged under the Criminal Damages Act, meaning cruelty to police animals is essentially seen as damage to property in the law. Those who attack police animals can also be charged under the Animal Welfare Act, which makes it a criminal offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering. The maximum punishment is six months in prison – much lower than the maximum penalty of 10 years available under the Criminal Damages Act.
Police animals deserve better protection and should be viewed as more than police property in the law. These animals help protect us and should be represented in the law as the valued public servants they are.
The Government had previously said it considered an additional offence dealing specifically with attacks on police animals unnecessary and that an additional and separate offence may not result in more prosecutions, or increased sentences. However, I believe Ministers need to address the serious concerns about the legal protection afforded to animals working in the police service. The Government has now agreed to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to police animals and all working animals – I hope this is a sign that they are taking this issue more seriously.