MPs have today responded to a call to offer better protection for police animals by agreeing to ‘explore’ what more can be done in the eyes of the law.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire Matthew Ellis called for a change in the law to help protect police dogs attacked in the line of duty after the ‘Finns Law’ petition reached over 122,000 signatures.
The petition began in October 2016 after Police Dog Finn and his handler were stabbed and seriously injured in Hertfordshire. The offender was only charged with criminal damage for stabbing Finn.
A Government response today stated “Whilst police leaders and campaigners agree that these penalties are appropriate, I understand that it is unpalatable to think of police animals as ‘equipment’ as is inferred by the charges of criminal damage. This does not seem to convey the respect and gratitude police and public feel for the animals involved and their contribution to law enforcement and public safety.
“The Government has therefore agreed to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to police animals and all working animals.
“When sentencing for offences of cruelty to or neglect of animals it is for the courts to decide on an appropriate penalty based on the individual circumstances of each case. Magistrates are provided with guidelines by the Sentencing Council to help them impose appropriate sentences and penalties.
“The guidelines give examples of offences, aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as the range of suggested sentences and penalties for various types of offences. The Government has requested that the Sentencing Council considers assaults on police animals as an aggravating factor as a part of their current review on guidelines for sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts, which includes animal cruelty offences.”
Mr Ellis said:
“Whilst I do not agree with parity with police officers I am adamant that police dogs should be shown the respect they deserve. They represent law and order across the United Kingdom and should be better protected if they are ever injured in the line of duty.
“Police dogs and horses play a pivotal role in protecting us. They aren’t just another piece of police kit, they feel pain, they have emotions and above all they display incredible loyalty.
“It is right that Government have agreed to re-evaluate this law to ensure more can be done to protect police animals. I’m very supportive of strengthening the law in this area and making it an aggravated offence which carries a potential prison term – the same protection assistance dogs receive.”
Mr Ellis is a keen supporter of the Staffordshire Retired Police Dog fund and is featuring two retired police dogs on his 2016 Christmas card. This card was funded personally by the PCC and he is encouraging people to make a donation to make a retired police dogs Christmas. More information about the fund is available at http://staffsretiredpolicedogs.org/