Have we reached a turning point?
A while ago Paul wrote an article ‘Does the Law Protect Our Police Dogs?’
There is a simple answer. “NO”.
The latest petition ‘Finns Law’ is the most recent welcome attempt to draw attention to the imbalance that exists in the protection and welfare of our police dogs.
Though it is easy to become embroiled in the emotion when the likes of poor Finn and others are injured the outcome for the assailants is anything but emotional. Months after the event solicitors, crown prosecution agents, court staff and judges all detached from that emotion will make a decision on what punishment that assailant receives. Or will they?
If it wasn’t bad enough that the decision is be made by a collection of individuals with no feeling for the event, the sad truth is most assaults on police dogs will never even reach court. Negotiations, plea bargaining and the ridiculously lack of appropriate legislation will ensure very few assailants will ever be called to account for the attempted destruction of a dedicated police dog.
I make no apologies for being in the emotionally attached camp. For those like me who have worked a police dog there can be no other stance. Our working dogs have a personality akin to any human colleague we will ever work with and in some cases a better one. A bond, yes, but it’s also a pledge.
A pledge made by the handler, the trainers, the kennel staff and the families of the handlers to care and nurture, to train and provide a fitting existence for that dog. This IS written in law.
In return that dog commits an unconditional loyalty to its handler and to the job. Do they know they are doing a job? Yes of course. Any handler will tell you their dog knows the difference between training and live work, between playing games and working on the street.
Paul, myself and all the team here at k9WH know however that emotional arguments rarely win an argument with people who have no emotional attachment to that argument. So let’s look at the question on their protection from an objective point.
The petition submitted by Paul received some support but was rejected because it was said “there is sufficient protection in existing laws to address assaults on police dogs”
The first of those laws is The Animal Welfare Act and in fairness it is a decent bit of legislation with good deterrent punishments. We have all viewed in abhorrence reported accounts of systematic animal abuse and acts cruelty and charges brought against a perpetrator have been applauded. Serious punishment dished-out and a deterrent established. But as good as this is, it does not work when applied to police dogs. Firstly, in cases this legislation was designed for, the charge made is the ‘Primary’ one, it is the offence for which the accused will actually be sent to court to face. The proceedings are often brought about by the dedicated work of animal welfare groups who professionally gather evidence worthy of any criminal prosecution.
Compare this to an assault like that on Finn. There is no systematic cruelty, the event is a reactionary one, it takes place in a moment and is driven by the actions of the perpetrator. There is little evidence to gather and no-one investigates the offence. The officer does a statement, submits his bite justification report and that’s about as detailed as the evidence gets. But probably more inappropriate is the fact that any cruelty charge here will be a ‘Secondary’ charge, maybe even lower. The circumstances leading to the assault will take precedence and the animal assault or cruelty as we are led to believe, will be down-valued.
So what about the Criminal Damage Act? Back in 1971 it was deemed
“Domestic animals can be regarded as property for the purposes of this legislation”
Let’s just think about this. Property?
Assuming that even makes sense how does it work? Well if you own an animal and someone damages that ‘domestic’ animal they damage your property. Realistically that has been superseded by the Animal Welfare Act which would be more appropriate in these modern times. Again if this offence was ever brought as a ‘Primary’ charge it would be investigated, evidence gathered a case put before a court and it may even stand a chance of being heard.
But that’s never going to happen in reality when applied to a police dog. Criminal Damage will unlikely be used as a ‘Primary’ charge in ‘damage’ to a police dog in the execution of its duty. Just consider, do we charge a burglar with the criminal damage committed on entry to a building or a car thief for the damage caused in that theft. No of course not. So why would we charge someone who in commission of the initial offence causes criminal damage to a dog. We wouldn’t and we don’t. And if we did it’s likely to get quickly dropped somewhere in the legal process.
The truth is the only reason these two Acts are dragged into this debate by decision makers is because with a stretch of the imagination, deliberate injuries to police dogs can be shoe-horned into them justifying ‘no further action required’
But anyone applying objective common sense will see that these Acts are not fit for purpose in protecting police dogs. They are not designed for or appropriate to the task. They will rarely be applied, investigated or prosecuted. They are convenient existing pieces of legislation that allow the creative minded to tell us everything is ok. They do not provide a deterrent and do not result in punishment.
So in the real world environment that police dogs work what protection is afforded to them. My conclusion is NONE
If you agree then trust your conscious, sign the ‘Finns Law’ petition, get your friends, family work-mates, the person sitting next to you to sign the petition. If we’ve not convinced you yet we have not given up.
In the next part of this report we will continue to make a case for specific legislation to protect police dogs in the execution of their duty.
Please don’t be part of the silent majority.