Police dog Finn named Animal Hero of the Year for taking down knife attacker in Stevenage

PUBLISHED: 17:39 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 12 September 2017

PC Dave Wardell and PD Finn after receiving their hero animal of the year award

PC Dave Wardell and PD Finn after receiving their hero animal of the year award

TIM ANDERSON

Brave police dog Finn, who was stabbed while heroically chasing down a suspect in Stevenage, has won a prestigious 'Animal Hero of the Year' award.

PC David Wardell
 and PD Finn with presenters Sir Patrick Stewart and Michelle CollinsPC David Wardell and PD Finn with presenters Sir Patrick Stewart and Michelle Collins

PD Finn was brutally wounded in the chest and head with a combat knife as he and handler PC Dave Wardell apprehended a 16-year-old criminal, stopping him from getting away over a garden wall in October last year.

Seven-year-old German Shepherd Finn, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police Dog Unit, was close to death and only recovered after life saving surgery – the knife having narrowly missed a main artery.

Last night Finn and Dave were presented with a prize for Hero Animal of the Year at a glamorous event run by the RSPCA and hosted by actress Amanda Holden at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

Legendary actor Patrick Stewart handed over the award, which was one of a series of prizes for praiseworthy animals given on the night.

Finn junior will be trained to help a blind or partially sighted person.Finn junior will be trained to help a blind or partially sighted person.

Giving evidence against the attacker at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court earlier this year, PC Wardell broke down in tears as he described the youth pulling the “biggest knife he had ever seen” out of the chest of his beloved dog.

He said: “I knew we were in mortal danger. I thought: ‘He’s just tried to kill my police dog, and the next thing is me’.

“I thought: ‘We’ve got to do something about this now or we’re not going home’.

“At that point I feared for my life and for Finn’s life. I was expecting Finn to die in front of me.

“Fearing my dog would be dead before I got to the van, I scooped him up and ran to my van.”

Finn made an amazing recovery and was back patrolling the streets just after Christmas – before finally retiring in March this year.

His 16-year-old attacker, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was convicted in May this year of actual bodily harm against PC Wardell, who had suffered a wound to his hand in the struggle, as well as causing criminal damage to Finn – and was jailed for four months.

The discrepancy between the way injured humans and service animals are treated by the law inspired a campaign called #FinnForChange, which is calling on the government to rethink sentencing guidelines.

A petition prompted a parliamentary debate attended by Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, and the law is currently under review.

Finn now lives at home with PC Wardell and his family of three children, several dogs, a cat and a parrot.

A gorgeous guide dog puppy has also now been named Finn in the hero police dog’s honour.

Since his recovery, PC Wardell has helped to raise £5,000 to name and sponsor a guide dog pup who will be trained to assist the blind.

Six-week-old Finn – also a German Shepherd – is now in training for the charity Guide Dogs, beginning his life with a foster family.

Finn will be looked after by a walker in Hemel Hempstead, and will afterwards attend a specialist training school for six months.

Some 94 per cent of guide dogs provided by the charity are Labradors or retrievers, with only four per cent being German Shepherds – but the charity says they are loyal and intelligent dogs, and well-suited for working careers.

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