Concerned residents have been contacting me about the protection of police dogs and horses.
In October 2016 a police dog called Finn was stabbed in the head and chest while chasing a suspect. For many people the charges brought in this awful case have highlighted a wider issue with the protections available in law for police animals.
People who attack a police animal can be charged under the Criminal Damages Act 1971. This legislation is designed to deal with destruction or damage to property, not animal cruelty. Those who attack police animals can also be charged under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it a criminal offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering. The maximum punishment is six months in prison or a fine of up to £20,000, which is much lower than the maximum penalty of 10 years available under the Criminal Damages Act.
The 'Finn's Law' campaign has said that police animals deserve better protection than property and I agree. Some of those who work with police dogs and police horses think the law is currently failing to offer that protection.
In response t a petition on this issue with over 100,000 signatures, the Government said it considered an additional offence dealing specifically with attacks on police animals unnecessary and that an additional and separate offence may not result in more prosecutions, or increased sentences. The Government has now 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.
Please be assured that I will closely monitor any developments.