Police dog Finn’s near-fatal stabbing prompts Hertfordshire officers to trial canine body armour

PC Dave Wardell with Finn at his side. Picture: Quercus Publishing

PC Dave Wardell with Finn at his side. Picture: Quercus Publishing - Credit: Archant

Police officers have been trialling the use of body armour for dogs, following the near-fatal stabbing of police dog Finn.

Finn recovering at home after undergoing life-saving surgery. Picture: Dave Wardell

Finn recovering at home after undergoing life-saving surgery. Picture: Dave Wardell - Credit: Archant

Finn was stabbed in the chest and head when he and handler PC Dave Wardell apprehended a suspect in Stevenage in 2016.

The offender - a 16-year-old boy from Lewisham - was charged with criminal damage for the attack on Finn.

This April, the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill - or Finn's Law, as it is more commonly known - was passed, giving legal protection to service animals.

It has now emerged that police officers have also been trialling body armour for dogs, designed to protect the vital organs between the chest and rib cage, as part of an ongoing investigation into what protection could be provided for police dogs on duty.

Police dog Finn has gone down in history for changing the law so that it is now an offence to cause

Police dog Finn has gone down in history for changing the law so that it is now an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a service animal. Picture: BEDS CAMBS HERTS POLICE - Credit: Archant

The trial is highlighted in the draft of the Independent Dog Welfare Lay Visitors Scheme Annual Report, which says six pieces of the specialist body armour were purchased as part of a six-month trial by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Dog Unit.

During the trial, vets and physiotherapists assessed the dogs as they completed a number of exercises - with and without the armour - and feedback was positive, although there are not yet plans to roll out the armour more widely.

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Herts police say the trial, including consideration of other options to protect police dogs on duty, is continuing.

The animals from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Dog Unit are used by the three forces for searching, tracking, arrest work and crowd control - with some trained to find drugs, cash, weapons and explosives.

During 2018/19, six dog welfare visitors made 44 visits to look into the welfare of the animals, resulting in 214 dog checks.

According to the annual report "no serious concerns" were raised by the visitors, who commented on the dogs' healthy weight, good condition of their coats and "the clear and obvious good relationships between the police dogs and their handlers".

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: "I am pleased no serious concerns were raised by the volunteers over this period and that the volunteers found the dogs to be in good condition.

"I would like to thank all the volunteers for their dedication and commitment to the scheme throughout 2018/19."

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