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Finn’s Law – A tragedy turned triumph

Service dogs within the military and police tend to be German Shepherds. Their high levels of intelligence, ability to remain calm, and desire to work makes them well suited to the high-stress environments they are required to work within.

Despite the bravery and real risk to safety for service dogs, there has never been any real legal protection if harm was to come their way while on the job.

However, one incident in London, England 2016 was the catalyst that changed this for the better.

This article will re-share the story of Finn’s law, the German Shepherd. A retired police dog who served in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and a turned tragedy to triumph.

finn's law

In October 2016, Finn and his handler PC, Dave Wardell received a call to attend an incident in Stevenage to which they were to search for a male suspect who was believed to be armed and dangerous.

As they located him, the suspect was quick to run off to which PC Wardell released Finn to do his job and assist in catching the criminal.

Finn was courageously able to grab the suspect’s leg before he could jump the fence. Falling to the ground, the suspect in a state of panic and recklessness stabbed Finn in the chest with a large knife.

A second strike to Finn’s head also caught PC Wardell’s hand as he attempted to protect his loyal companion and disarm the suspect.

Despite the horrific injuries inflicted on Finn’s law, he did not let go of the suspect’s leg until reinforcements had arrived on the scene. This heroic action reinforces the bravery and loyalty traits known of the German Shepherd breed.

After fears surrounding whether Finn would survive, he required four hours of life-saving surgery in which part of his lung was to be removed. After eleven weeks, Finn was strong enough to return to duty for another year before his eighth birthday in March 2017 in which he retired.

A few months later, the criminal found to be a sixteen-year-old boy from Lewisham was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against PC Wardell, yet only with criminal damage for the stabbing of Finn. The final verdict resulted in eight months of detention in a Young Offenders Institution.

 

The tragedy that left Finn with no justice for the harm inflicted on him enraged the U.K. public into demanding a change. An online petition started to which 127,000 people signed. Although this petition highlighted the issue, it was with the help of Sir Oliver Heald, a member of parliament that helped bring real change.

He proposed a private members bill known as the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill. First debated within the House of Commons in December 2017, it was introduced into the House of Commons on the 13th of June 2018. Finally, on the 8th April 2019, the bill had completed all parliamentary stages and received the Royal Assent, coming into force in June of that year.

The law was so well received that the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon also announced that a new Animal Welfare Bill would be put into place that incorporated “Finn’s Law”. Lastly, in February 2020, the law was additionally passed in Northern Ireland. The outline of the law consequently makes it harder for individuals who cause harm to service animals (such as horses and dogs) to claim their actions were out of self–defense.

 

To continue the effort to raise awareness, PC Wardell and Finn made an emotional and heartfelt appearance on Britain’s Got Talent with a mind-reading act. The performance bought the audience and judges to tears and redirected the light to shine on animal cruelty and the demand for justice for them.

 

The  Finn’s law celebrations continue    

finn's law K9

As a result of Finn’s courageous effort to survive and loyalty towards his co-worker and job, he accepted multiple awards. Firstly, the International Fund for Animal Welfare awarded Finn “Animal of the Year Award” in a ceremony within the House of Lords in October 2017. The following May, he received the PDSA Gold Medal as a token for his devotion to duty.

Finally, in March 2019 Finn earned the Kennel Club’s “Friends for Life” prize at Crufts, the annual dog show. These heart-warming moments are evidence that significant change can happen as a result of community support and a desire for change. A tragic event does not have to remain a tragedy if a dedication to change can take place.

 

Petitions to support animals and how you can help

finn's law story

The era of social media and constant connectivity make the spreading and sharing of news that much easier. Petitions have throughout history been a method to bring change and spread awareness on a particular topic.

The U.K. Government and Parliament website is home to a list of many petitions, ranging from Tuk’s Law that asks vets to scan before euthanasia of an animal to allowing Zoos’ reopen with social distancing put into place.

With Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, individuals can with minimal restrictions, reach a broad audience, and even get in contact with celebrities to bring their cause to a more significant and public standpoint. Not only does this help create change, but build communities with like-minded people who can discuss tip and tricks on a chosen topic.

 

As pet owners or pet lovers, it is easy to forget that animals, particularly dogs, do so much to assist our day-to-day lives. The traits that we love (or even the qualities that also annoy us at times) are the exact features that make them so special and unique. Specific and intentional breeding, certain breeds such as the German Shepherd have been bred to excel in ways that make them

exceptional service dogs; as showcased through the heroic story of Finn’s law. Without the determined help of the general public, the outcome of Finn’s law story may not have been so positive.

As responsible dog owns and lovers, we must continue to fight for change when needed and bring justice to animals in need.