Finn’s Law passes latest parliamentary obstacle

Extra protections for police animals have moved a step closer after the Bill dubbed ‘Finn’s Law’ passed its second reading in Parliament.

Jul 6, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

MPs unanimously backed the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill on Friday (July 6) just weeks after an objection stalled its progress.

The draft legislation, nicknamed ‘Finn’s Law’ in honour of a retired Hertfordshire Constabulary dog that was stabbed protecting his handler, has had a troubled history in the House of Commons as multiple attempts to introduce it have failed.

The Bill will now proceed to the Committee stage, where it will be further debated before its potential journey into statute.

Speaking after the debate, Sir Oliver Heald, who is trying to secure the change to legislation, said: “I am delighted that my Private Member’s Bill to give effect to Finn’s Law has passed a major hurdle and will now make further progress through parliament.

“I pay tribute to PC Dave Wardell – Finn’s handler – and Sarah Dixon, who have fought an excellent campaign to see this bill get to this stage.

“I hope that my Bill will make further progress and that we will shortly see Finn’s Law on the statute book.”

Finn’s Law aims to remove a section of current self-defence law often exploited by those who harm police and other service animals.

It proposes amending the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to address a section that allows defendants to claim they were protecting themselves and were justified in using physical force against the animal.

Under current law, attacking a police animal is only punishable with criminal damage charges, which campaigners claim do not match the seriousness of the offence.

Both Finn and PC Wardell were stabbed as they tried to detain a fleeing suspect in Stevenage in October 2016.

PC Wardell, who suffered injuries to his hand during the incident, claimed Finn saved his life.

Finn sustained critical injuries and was given life-saving treatment in hospital. He has since recovered and has retired from Hertfordshire Constabulary.

After initial attempts to introduce the Bill timed out before the 2017 General Election, the campaign was picked up by Sir Oliver in December as a Private Member’s Bill.

However, its second reading was delayed for the fourth time last month when Sir Christopher Chope raised an objection in Parliament, despite the draft Bill being given government support.

Sir Christopher also objected to another Private Members’ Bill aiming to make taking pictures up women’s skirts a specific criminal offence.

The second reading of the legislation comes just days after another police dog was stabbed during the course of its duties.

On Wednesday (July 4), Derbyshire Constabulary’s police dog Axle was attacked when he and his handler responded to calls of a disturbance.

Axle was taken to a veterinary hospital with critical injuries but is now recovering.

A 27-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident.

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