Cheshire police lends support to police service animal campaign
Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner, David Keane, has lent his support to a campaign calling for a new law to be introduced to make attacking police service animals a crime.
The Service Animals (Offences) Bill aims to protect police dogs and horses from being attacked or killed in the line of duty. It will have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday (27 April).
The bill is more commonly known as Finn’s Law in honour of a Hertfordshire Constabulary dog who needed surgery after being stabbed while chasing an armed robbery suspect in 2016.
The offender, who also attacked Finn’s handler, was charged with actual bodily harm for the injuries inflicted on PC Dave Wardell, but was only charged with criminal damage for almost killing Finn.
UK law currently considers police service animals as property, but other EU countries already have laws in place to protect these animals.
In this country, offenders who attack service animals can only be prosecuted under the Criminal Damages Act 1971 – primarily designed to deal with the destruction or damage of a property – or under the Animal Welfare Act 2006; the maximum punishment under that legislation is just six months in prison.
David said: “The current laws in place do not provide enough protection for our hard-working service animals. They are highly trained members of the police force who play a vital role in operations, whether that be in drug detection, searches for missing people or policing public order incidents.
“The law does not seem to recognise the potentially dangerous situations that police dogs and horses face on a regular basis to protect the public, even though there has been a number of cases in recent years where animals have been seriously injured in the line of duty. I believe that offenders who attack police animals should be dealt with effectively.”
The campaign has gained widespread public support, with more than 127,000 people signing a petition calling on the government to give the same protection to police dogs and horses as police officers.
“Many Cheshire residents have written to me about their concerns regarding the lack of protection for our service animals and I am happy to give them my support”, added David.