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Staffordshire Police’s dogs have been recognised as colleagues and not property at a special event today.
Eighteen dogs were each presented with a specially engraved collar by the High Sheriff of Staffordshire, Ashley Brough and Chief Constable, Gareth Morgan at the force’s headquarters in Stafford this morning. The collars carry the police dog’s name and number in recognition of their new status in law as protected animals since the introduction of Finn’s Law earlier this year. The collar numbers are unique and will retire with the dog.
The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill 2019, known as Finn’s Law, provides increased protection for service animals by making it a criminal offence to cause them unnecessary suffering. The law received Royal Assent in April 2019, and became enforceable on Saturday, June 8.
The first prosecution under the new law came as a result of an attack on PD Audi, a Staffordshire Police general purpose dog. PD Audi was stabbed in the head on 1 July as he was defending his handler during an incident on Town Road in Hanley. PD Audi’s attacker, Daniel O’Sullivan, who also assaulted five police officers, was sentenced to three months in prison for injuring him as part of a 21- months sentence for the incident as a whole. Fortunately, PD Audi made a full recovery and is back at work.
Previously, the only available charges for someone who injured or killed a police service animal in the line of duty, was one of criminal damage. With this new legislation, defendants will no longer be able to claim self-defence as a reason for injury.
Staffordshire Police’s Chief Constable, Gareth Morgan said: “Since the introduction of Finn’s law, police dogs are now recognised as public servants and not just police property. Like their handlers, they face danger on a daily basis as they fight crime. I’m pleased that we are now better able to protect them.
“Before the introduction of this legislation, a defendant who had injured or killed a police dog could only be charged with criminal damage to police property. In Staffordshire we have already seen, with the case of PD Audi, the first prosecution under the new law. Our police dogs are not just property, they are important members of the force who provide a valuable service. Their welfare is of paramount importance to us. Injuring or killing a service animal is now recognised as an offence in its own right, and I welcome that.”
“The new collars are a way of demonstrating publicly how much the force values our dogs. They may not be able to wear a police officer’s uniform but the collars identify them as working for Staffordshire Police. The work they do keeps people safe and I’m pleased to be able to acknowledge their new status.”