Last Friday, in his role as a Defra Minister, George Eustice MP, was responsible for helping to support one of these Private Members Bills. The Bill has been introduced by the Hertfordshire MP, Oliver Heald and has been dubbed "Finn’s Law". It has the support of the government and last Friday gained the support of the House of Commons and now moves to the next stages in the House of Lords. The aim of the new legislation is to make it easier to bring prosecutions when police dogs and other service animals are attacked in the course of their duties.
Finn’s law is named after Finn an Alsatian police dog who saved the life of his handler when a robbery suspect they were pursuing turned on them with a knife in 2016. Finn was stabbed in the chest and head but bravely did not let go until reinforcements arrived and was initially thought unlikely to survive. Unfortunately, whilst the suspect was charged with actual bodily harm in relation to wounds to PC Wardell’s hand, he faced only criminal damage charges over the injuries to Finn. I met Finn on Friday and could see that he was a dedicated service dog who would do anything to protect his handler.
The aim of Finn’s law is to amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 so that the statutory defence of acting through fear does not apply to any service animal that has is under the control of its handler. This includes Police Dogs and Horses, Prison Dogs and Fire and Rescue Dogs. This will mean that were a service animal such as a police fog or horse be harmed whilst carrying out their duties, then the offender would be able to be charged with an offence under this new law. Supported by the Government, the Mayor of London, The Mayor of Greater Manchester, all Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, the RSPCA, IFAW and many more, it is clear that there is a lot of support for this change in law. Whilst there is still a little way to go, there is also a fair wind behind this idea and cross party support for what it seeks to achieve.
George said, "It was great to meet Finn last week and hear more about the progress of the bill and what the extra protections will mean for service animals. Like many service animals, Finn carried out his duty and protected his handler until reinforcements arrived, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all the service animals across the country that help to keep us safe every day."