The new law giving legal protection to police dogs has been welcomed by Northamptonshire's Chief Constable who says it rightly identifies them as colleagues and protectors.
To mark the introduction, five police dogs were welcomed to Force Headquarters on Tuesday June 11 by Chief Constable Nick Adderley.
Police dogs Mac, Charlie, Ollie, Walt and Bryn were each presented with their own collar, engraved with their name and new collar number, as well as personalised warrant cards.
The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill 2019, also 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.
Previously, the only available charges at the time 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.
To mark Finn’s Law, Northamptonshire Police will be issuing collar numbers and tags to all of their serving police dogs, which will each be unique and will retire with the dog.
As well as assigning collar numbers, the Force will commemorate each working dog on a memorial plaque in Force Headquarters reception, inscribing the name and hanging the collar tag of each future service police dog who passes away.
On Finn’s Law, Chief Constable Nick Adderley said: “Police dogs put their life on the line every day to protect their handlers, fight crime and protect the people of Northamptonshire, and the introduction of Finn’s law provides the opportunity for us to legally protect them in return.
“Prior to the introduction of Finn’s Law, the only way a defendant could be charged for injuring or killing a police dog would be in relation to damaging police property. This new legislation provides reassurance that injuring or killing a service animal is not, and will not, be taken lightly.
“But for us, the change in legislation means far more than that. It means rightly identifying them as our colleagues and protectors, who are as valued as our officers and staff, and to protect them throughout their working career with the Force.”
Northamptonshire Police experienced the loss of a police dog in 1998. PD Bryn was killed when he and his handler, Ian Churms, were called to an address in Irthlingborough following an emergency call to police. Ian attempted to negotiate with the offender, who was armed with a hunting rifle, but was shot in the leg. Shortly after, PD Bryn was fatally shot. A 42-year-old woman was also shot.
Last year, to honour PD Bryn a group of retired police officers and staff paid for a new trainee police dog last year to join the Force. The trainee pup is also called Bryn in memory of his namesake.