Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl is backing public calls for a new law to protect police dogs attacked or killed in the line of duty.
Mr. Surl said animals play a vital role in policing and any attempt to attack or kill a police dog on duty was a serious act of violence which should be treated with severity in law.
Later this week (Friday 27 April) the Service Animals (Offences) Bill, commonly known as ‘Finn’s Law’, is due to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill advocates the introduction of a new offence of attacking a service animal, including police dogs, and broadening sentencing powers in situations where a service animal is injured as a result of crime.
An obligation to show compassion to all animals and investigate the theft of domestic animals thoroughly is one of the underlying themes of the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan, the general strategy for how the Gloucestershire Constabulary operates on a daily basis.
I am aware of the upset an animal being stolen can cause to pet owners and will ensure crime prevention advice is made available to pet owners and that cases reported to the Constabulary are investigated. I will continue to follow the work of the All Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) and ensure any relevant legislation or good practice is acted upon.
Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021
Mr. Surl said, “Attacking an animal in service, which is there to protect and uphold public order, is a serious demonstration of violence. Police dogs and their handlers act as a team and an attack on one should be regarded in a similar context to an attack on the other.
“Our dogs and horses make significant contribution to policing in areas like crowd control, drug detection and searching for missing people, all of which would be more difficult without them. They risk harm on a regular basis to keep their handlers and the public safe and legislation should be amended to afford them the protection they deserve.
“Many people have written to me on this issue and I am happy to give them my support.”
The campaign for ‘Finn’s Law’ was launched in the wake of the stabbing of a police dog named Finn who was chasing a suspect in Hertfordshire last year. His handler was also injured during the incident.
The campaign has gained widespread public support, with more than 120,000 people signing a petition to give status to police dogs and horses as ‘police officers’.
Although there are no current laws that specifically protect police dogs or horses. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering while the Criminal Damage Act 1971 classes animals as property capable of being ‘damaged and destroyed”.
However, campaigners say police dogs and other service animals should not be regarded as “objects” or “property” and call for a new law which recognises their individual contribution to public safety.