Last Friday marked a great step in the campaign to recognise service animals in UK law as Finn’s Law, or The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, passed in the House of Commons. Finn’s Law refers to the legislation which will make it an offence to harm or abuse an animal in the line of duty.
This important amendment to the Animal Welfare Act is named after a Police dog called Finn, who was almost killed protecting his handler PC Dave Wardell from a teenager with a knife. Finn sustained life-threatening injuries and had to undergo emergency surgery, while his attacker was only charged with criminal damage for his attack on Finn.
Since then PC Dave Wardell has campaigned tirelessly to change the law to increase sentences for those who abuse animals and have service animals properly recognised in UK law. IFAW has been proud to work with Dave and Finn and support the Finn’s Law campaign from the outset. Dave and Finn’s hard work paid off and at the end of 2017, the Government announced plans to increase maximum sentences for animal abusers from six months to five years. This was followed in August 2018 by the introduction of a Bill to recognise service animals within the law, which passed through the House of Commons on Friday.
At IFAW, we are committed to improving the lives of dogs and other animals in the UK and around the world – and this includes ensuring that the animals who protect us get protection in turn from the law. In 2017 we awarded Finn the IFAW Animal of the Year Award in recognition of his extraordinary bravery and the efforts of his handler Dave in the Finn’s Law campaign. It was at the award ceremony that they met their MP Sir Oliver Heald who championed the campaign and worked to bring the much-needed legislative change in Parliament.
The speed with which Finn’s Law has passed through the House of Commons is a testament to the strong support within Parliament for the valuable work that service animals do. We hope that the House of Lords will now progress the Bill with haste to ensure these animals receive the recognition and protection within UK law that they deserve.
We now await the introduction of legislation to increase the maximum sentences for animal abusers and will continue to promote this vital change in the law to provide greater legal protections to Britain’s animals.