One of my colleagues was browsing in a charity shop and spotted a book with a beautiful German Shepherd on the cover. She bought it for me as I have a German Shepherd puppy that I apparently talk about a lot! The book was called Fabulous Finn so of course I read it.
It was the story of a police dog and his handler. PC Wardell and Finn, his service dog, were both stabbed while trying to apprehend a man suspected of robbing a taxi driver at gunpoint in Stevenage Hertfordshire in 2016. Finn was stabbed in the head and in the chest but held on to the offender until reinforcements arrived. PC Wardell was knifed in the hand but credited Finn for saving his life. The suspect was charged with actual bodily harm in relation to PC Wardell’s injury but faced only criminal damage charges for the wounds inflicted upon the dog.
It was thought that Finn was unlikely to survive, but he did. Since Finn’s attack PC Wardell campaigned tirelessly for an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, to increase sentences for those who abuse animals and to have service animals properly recognised in UK law. The International Fund for Animals Welfare worked alongside the police handler, supporting the campaign from the outset. At the end of 2017, the Government announced plans to increase maximum sentences for animal abusers from six months to one year, followed in August 2018 by the introduction of a Bill the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill to recognise service animals within the law. This was quickly passed through the House of Commons and has been referred to as Finn’s Law now making it an offence to harm or abuse an animal in the line of duty.
The speed with which Finn’s Law passed through the House of Commons is a testament to the strong support within Parliament for the valuable work that service animals do. On 2 April 2019 The House of Lords passed the law to the acclaim of Finn who was in the public gallery and barked. PC Wardell said it was an “amazing achievement.” The law also means self-defence cannot be used as a line of argument in court. This is coupled with government plans to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years in prison.
PC Wardell said “The last two and a half years have been quite a journey of discovery for Finn and me.”
“We decided that we just had to bring change to make sure our amazing service animals including police dogs and horses, has protection in law”.
“We wanted to bring as much positive from that one negative as we could.”
Michael Gove congratulated campaigners saying “I am committed to making the UK the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals.”