The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, also known as Finn’s Law, came into force on 8th June 2019 to protect service animals such as dogs and horses.

The new legislation, named after Finn, a police dog who sustained serious injuries after being stabbed while pursuing a suspect, will prevent those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self defence.

Until then, service animals fell into a ‘legal loophole’ whereby an attack on an animal in the line of duty could only be classed as criminal damage in much the same way as breaking a window. According to a campaign group which led the fight for a law change, more than 100 other service animals had been injured since 2012, including injuries such as being beaten with an iron bar, kicked, or hit by a car.

Since its introduction, the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act has been used during the sentencing of a man from Liverpool. Daniel O’Sullivan, who was high on drugs at the time of the incident, had been surrounded by police near to a shopping centre in Stoke on Trent. The officers were forced to deploy their service dog after he refused to drop the weapon. The service dog was stabbed with the knife in the eye area.

At Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, O’Sullivan was sentenced to four months each for five offences of assaulting police officers; 18 months for carrying a weapon (the knife); and eight months for using a glass bottle as a weapon during the standoff which will be served at the same time. He was separately sentenced to a three month jail term for what the judge described as a “deliberate attempt to cause suffering” to the police dog. We will serve a total of 21 months in prison.

As this is relatively new legislation, it is difficult to know what new sentences will be given to offenders who attack and injure service animals but one things is certain, their sentences will now be stricter than those breaking a window!

Farleys criminal defence team can provide advice and representation during police station interviews and criminal trials. To speak to a member of the team, submit your enquiry online or call 0845 287 0939. To contact us in an emergency, we operate a 24 hr emergency line that can be reached on 01254 606050.