Local MP, Caroline Dinenage, has welcomed news that Finn’s Law – the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill – has now received Royal Assent and will come into force in June 2019.
While on duty in 2016, PC Dave Wardell and service dog Finn were stabbed in Stevenage. Finn received stab wounds while protecting PC Wardell and although the suspect faced Actual Bodily Harm for assaulting the police officer, he only faced criminal damages for Finn’s injuries.
Since 2016, PC Wardell and campaigners have pushed Finn’s Law through Parliament. The Bill has now removed a section of self-defence, often used by those who harm service animals, and increased the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years in prison.
Gosport MP, Caroline Dinenage, commented:
“Our brave service animals are vital for our police forces and show tremendous courage in protecting our officers. Like Finn, service animals deserve to have the protection of the law and perpetrators should face tough sentences for harm inflicted. I am extremely pleased to see that the Bill will come into effect in summer.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
“This Bill will offer stronger protection for the many brave service animals that help to protect us. I pay tribute to PC David Wardell, Sir Oliver and all those who have campaigned for Finn’s Law.
This Government is continuing to raise the bar on animal welfare, whether it be for our beloved pets, brave service animals or on farms.”
PC Dave Wardell, Finn’s Police Dog handler, said:
“My boy Finn, now retired, was one of several thousand service animals that work to protect the whole of society 24 hours a day, everyday. When Finn was seriously injured it didn’t seem right to me or the public that he was seen as an inanimate object/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 everyday.
With the amazing support of my MP, Sir Oliver Heald QC, a great working relationship with Defra was formed. Sir Oliver, along with Sarah Dixon and Nicola Skelley, have worked so incredibly hard to get us to the point we are at today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and Defra from my heart and from the thousands of supporters that our service animals have.
What you have done today will help protect our amazing service animals, animals we should be very proud of. It’s time for Finn’s Law”
The Bill proposes amending the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to address concerns on an existing section where a defendant accused of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal can claim they were protecting themselves and justified in using physical force against a service animal.