One step closer to Finn’s Law after committee gives unanimous backing

Police dog Finn and friends joined committee members at the Houses of Parliament as they voted on th

Police dog Finn and friends joined committee members at the Houses of Parliament as they voted on the bill to protect service animals. Picture: Defra - Credit: Archant

A government Bill put forward in honour of police dog Finn – who was stabbed in Stevenage – has been unanimously supported in a committee of cross-party MPs.

Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herts, has been campaigning for the change in law which will help to protect service animals in the line of duty.

Sir Oliver told this newspaper: “Finn attended committee with my constituent dog handler and Herts PC Dave Wardell, along with Finn’s Law campaign manager Sarah Dixon.

“I aim to have the Bill back in the chamber for third reading on February 8, so the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill is well on the way to becoming law and providing public recognition in law for our brave service animals for the first time.

“This is a change in the law which is happening internationally and across the UK. We also had the chance to discuss Finn’s Law with [Scottish National Party leader] Nicola Sturgeon who supports the cross-party campaign for a Finn’s Law for Scotland.”

The committee, which included Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, agreed unanimously to the Bill – which will now go back to the chamber for a third reading, hopefully on February 8.

The bill will be voted on by the House of Commons and is subject to amendments – which can only be made if two-thirds of the chamber agree.

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If it is approved, the same process will be carried out in the House of Lords before – if successful – it returns to the Commons to be signed and enacted into law.

Animal welfare minister David Rutley said: “Finn’s name is rightly associated with this important Bill, so it was great to finally have the chance to meet him.

“The Bill will offer better protection to the service animals, like Finn, who so braveley serve us all.

“I applaud PC Wardell, Sir Oliver Heald and all others who have campaigned for this bill, which the government will continue to strongly support as it progresses through Parliament.”

The Finn’s Law campaign was started after a 16-year-old boy was charged with causing ‘criminal damage’ for stabbing the German shepherd through the chest with a 12-inch combat knife during a Stevenage pursuit in October 2016.

Finn subsequently had life-saving surgery to have parts of one lung removed and did return to work in December of that year, before retiring at the end of March 2017.

The boy was later given a detention training order for eight months, and a two-year behaviour order with conditions and fines – but calls from campaigners for a change in the law grew ever louder.

A petition calling for Finn’s Law to be introduced – so that anyone who attacks a police dog or horse would face the same charges as if they had attacked a person – received 120,000 signatures and has been presented to Parliament.