Sarah’s Speech

PDSA GOLD AWARD

The video you have just seen tells the tale of the courage, bravery and dedication of a PD fulfilling the roll that we, as society, have tasked him to do. As Rob Adams, specialist veterinary surgeon, has said “Finn is the luckiest unlucky dog alive” and is thoroughly deserving of the honour being bestowed on him today.

So what happened to the offender who attacked Finn with such ferocity, I hear you ask? The answer is he was found guilty of Criminal Damage but he received no penalty for what he did to Finn. Had those injuries been inflicted on Dave he would have been facing a charge of attempted murder.

Under current legislation in England and Wales and Scotland there are only two possible charges that may be used when injuries are inflicted on service animals.

The first being the causing of unnecessary suffering to an animal. Easy right? NO.  This offence was never intended for this purpose.  It was intended to protect animals from the abuse from people under who’s care they are in. As a result there is an inbuilt defence which excuses a person from harming animals if that person was afraid that the animal was going to cause harm to them, to others or the property of others. We refer to this as the “defence of fear”.

Thousands of pounds and many hours of training are invested in service animals to fulfil particular roles in society. For Police animals, Prison dogs and border control this may mean to be intimidating, to create fear.

The alternative offence is that of Criminal Damage; the act of causing damage to property. When I look at Finn, I do not see property. I see a living intuitive, sensitive being.  I see a being responsible for saving life’s, protecting the vulnerable and detaining the criminal. By the legal system viewing him as mere property this means he is reduced to an object with a value in pounds and pence only. Nothing more is relevant. His suffering, his training, his results ….nothing.

The offender in Finn’s case was found guilty of 4 offences. Remember, he was armed with 10 ins hunting knife, he was also carrying an imitation fire arm, he caused ABH on PC Wardell and he nearly killed Finn.

The sentencing panel determined that the damage caused to Finn was of such low significance that it did not warrant any separate penalty. Think about for a moment. Totally outrageous, but let me put this to you.  It was not their fault. They had no alternative. Their hands are bound by the legislation.

I, for one, am not willing to accept this. Current UK Legislation is woefully lacking and totally inappropriate for such injuries. And be under no illusion, service animals are getting injured every day. PD Anya – Stabbed. PD Theo – bitten; PD Ronny – strangled; PD Theo again – set on fire, PH Illustrious – stabbed in the eye; PH Embassy – firework set off in his face; PH Quixote – lazer pen shone in his eye  and attacked with sticks; PD Canto – stabbed in the chest and received a deserved PDSA commendation for his bravery; PD Quantum – stabbed near the eye.

We have been working with Sir Oliver Heald MP, PC Wardell’s MP, to call for Finns Law. A law which will make injuring a service animal a specific criminal offence. A law that will see the UK catch up with many other Countries. A law that will mean that all service animals will receive the protection and due regard we owe them for the service they provide. A law that will mean that our service animals are not excluded from protection by virtue of the very roll we task them to fulfil.

The Ministry of Justice have stated that the current laws in the UK provide “sufficient protection”. There is no evidence to support this stance. They refer to proposed increases for Animal Welfare offences and brush over a fundamental principle.  Unless the state can secure a conviction, it cannot impose any sentence.

So I stand before you and ask does the above sound like “sufficient protection” to you? Is it sufficient protection that PD Theo was videoed being bitten in the head and the CPS did not bring charges because there was insufficient evidence. Does it sound sufficient protection that PD Canto was stabbed in the chest and the offender was invited in for a caution only?  Is it sufficient that the current laws prevented Finn from receiving any justice?

We are not asking for anything radical in Finns Law. We are asking for parity. It is immoral that our service animals are excluded from the protection available to our pets because of the roll we give them. A roll which they carry out with dedication, loyalty and commitment like no other. As Finn’s tale demonstrates, he would sacrifice his life to fulfil this roll.

Finn was so heroic on that fateful night. He ensured that the Wardell family remained intact. Gemma had her husband and the girls had their dad. Finn continues to be a hero in my eyes. It is my honest belief that Finn and Dave’s pairing always had a purpose, and this is it. Finn was sent not merely to protect Dave. He was sent to protect his kind. This is why he has such a regal presence. He has a true life purpose.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that society failed Finn when he was at his most vulnerable. It is our responsibility to speak up for those with no voice. Please join us as we continue to fight for our voiceless protectors. Contact your MP and ask them to add their support to the call for Finns Law.