I had the honour of meeting Finn yesterday. Many constituents will be aware of the fantastic work done by the #FinnsLaw campaign group. Finn was a service animal who, along with his handler, was stabbed while chasing a suspect. Since this time, Finn and his handler have worked tirelessly to campaign for improved rights for animals.
Off the back of their campaign, Finn’s Law now has Royal Assent. The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019 increases protections for service animals and increases the punishments for attacks on them to bring them closer in line with attacks on officers. I was very proud to support Finn’s Law when it passed through the House of Commons. Finn was lucky to have survived the attack. Working animals are not just property, and the law needed to reflect this.
However, the campaign has not stopped there. #FinnsLawPart2 seeks to extend sentencing for all acts of animal cruelty. This is something I have long supported. Currently, the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences is six months. This is clearly inadequate given the atrocious nature of these crimes.
In the last Parliament, the Government twice introduced legislation seeking to increase sentences for animal cruelty offences but failed to make time for them to be debated in the House for the Bills to become law before last year’s General Election. While the current Government have not put forward their own legislation, they have confirmed that they will support a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Chris Loder MP. The Bill would increase the maximum sentence to five years’ imprisonment and is scheduled to be debated in the House on 12 June 2020.
I fully support Finn’s Law Part 2 and the extension to five years proposed by this Bill. However, I also believe that we need to make sure that any Bill does not create a two-tier system between offences against domestic and wild animals and that it protects all animals equally.
It is disappointing that we must continue to wait for this important legislation. I pay tribute to work done by the #FinnsLaw group as well as other groups such as the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. I will continue to support all efforts to toughen sentencing for animal cruelty offences and look forward to seeing Finn’s Law Part 2 gain Royal Assent in the near future.