Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping has today written a second letter to the Home Secretary supporting a change in legislation after police dog Quantum received stab wounds on duty in the city.
The PCC wrote to Amber Rudd last month calling for ministers to get behind public calls for Finn’s Law which offers service animals including police dogs and horses’ greater protection if attacked or killed in the line of duty.
The Service Animals (Offences) Bill aims to broaden sentencing powers in situations where a service animal is injured as a result of crime and is currently making its way through Parliament, attracting widespread public and cross-party support.
Mr Tipping felt compelled to write to the Government for a second time to reiterate the necessity of a new law after Nottinghamshire PD Quantum was injured last week while apprehending suspects during an incident in which three police officers were also injured.
Quantum received several stab wounds and required nine stitches by a vet. He is now recovering well at home although it will be some time before he is ready to return to duty.
The police officers were treated for their injuries but have since been released from hospital.
A number of criminal charges have been brought following the incident including one of animal cruelty. Currently, this is the only legal means of recognising an attack on a police dog.
In his letter, Mr Tipping said: “Our police dogs are highly trained crime-fighters, poised to confront danger and risk-ridden situations in much the same way as our police officers. They protect their handlers from the ever-present threat of violence in their work and ensure dangerous people are prevented from inflicting harm on others.
“Nottinghamshire now has one less police dog on its streets protecting the public while a tight-knit police team has one less member to disrupt criminal activity.
“We ask a lot from our police dogs and we should give them respect and protection in return.”
In his letter, Mr Tipping explained Quantum was a relatively young police dog but had shown impressive skills throughout his training and his handlers had high hopes for his future police work.
Regrettably, the PCC said there would now be a waiting game to see whether his injuries have had any lasting impact on his temperament leading him to become more aggressive or intimidated in the future. In any case, he will require specialist training before returning to active duty in much the same way that an injured police officer would.
“There must be a change in the law to offer greater protection to our police dogs and to recognise the exceptional contribution they make to community safety,” he went on.
“We couldn’t do it without them. Let’s validate their efforts and their value with this new legislation.”
The campaign for ‘Finn’s Law’ was launched in the wake of the stabbing of a police dog named Finn in Hertfordshire last year who was chasing a suspect. His handler was also injured during the incident.
It has gained widespread public support, with more than 120,000 people signing a petition to give status to police dogs and horses as ‘police officers’.
There are no current laws that specifically protect police dogs or horses. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering while the Criminal Damage Act 1971 classes animals as property capable of being ‘damaged and destroyed”.
However, campaigners say police dogs and other service animals shouldn’t be regarded as “objects” or “property” and call for a new law which recognises their individual contribution to public safety.