This week I took part in a House of Commons debate on the status of police dogs and horses, following a petition which attracted more than 120,000 signatories. The petition followed an incident involving a policeman and his police dog.
At the moment, there isn’t a specific penalty for causing harm to, or the death of, a police animal and offences such as these are currently prosecuted under two laws, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
Charging someone who has attacked an animal with criminal damage typifies the materialistic way in which the law treats animals. We see that with dog theft and with attacks on police dogs. It is time we stopped treating animals like commodities.
I’d like to dispel the myth that 10 years’ imprisonment is available in almost any circumstance for assaults on police dogs and horses. For the matter to come before the Crown Court, with its extended sentencing powers, would require the damage involved to exceed £5,000. I’m not sure there has ever been such a case and that 10 years’ imprisonment has never been available for any offender convicted of such an offence.
The petition has suggested the adoption of a law similar to that in the US which has much greater penalties for these crimes and I think greater sentencing powers would act as a deterrent.
There are 1,900 police dogs currently working in the UK and we need to have a suitable law to protect them. Harming a police animal whilst working is an appalling crime and there should be a fitting punishment to fit such horrific acts.