Motion: Abuse of Service Animals – Monday 10 February 2020

Do you know what Finn’s Law is? 

The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, also known as ‘Finn’s Law’ was passed by Westminster in June 2019 to protect service animals such as police dogs and horses. The law prevents anyone who attacks or abuses a service animal from claiming self-defence. Before this law, someone accused of causing suffering to an animal could justify their actions by claiming self-defence.

Along with the Government’s plans to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years in prison, the law is designed to make sure those who harm service animals are punished accordingly. The law is named after Finn, a police dog who was stabbed while pursuing a suspect with his handler. Finn suffered serious injuries to his chest and head and it was initially thought unlikely that he would survive. The law at the time meant that only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker. The Act covers England and Wales but not Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own laws). 

During this week’s Plenary, MLAs Alex Easton and Pam Cameron proposed a motion calling on the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to introduce legislation in Northern Ireland similar to Finn’s Law, making it an offence to harm or abuse service animals. 

Watch the full debate, including contributions from other MLAs and the response of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots.    

You can also read the Official Report of the debate.

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