Charles Barry’s Gothic masterpiece remains one of the eye-catching architectural wonders of the world yet its political incumbents’ failure to deal with Brexit has been as devastating as an attack by Xestobium rufovilosum, the dastardly wood-boring deathwatch beetle. One uplifting sound echoing through the red-leather splendour of the House of Lords last week was therefore as welcome and joyous as any unanimous indicative vote. Finn the hero police dog’s throaty “woof” echoed through the ornate chamber, bringing smiles on the faces of their lordships and those squeezed into the public gallery.
Now enjoying a well-earned retirement, the handsome German shepherd was sounding his gratitude to the peers who had given an unopposed third reading to the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, otherwise known as Finn’s Law.
This vital piece of legislation has dashed through the parliamentary process faster than a tracker dog on the scent of a suspect and brings much needed protection to the brave animals on the frontline of law and order. Finn came within a whisker of losing his life protecting devoted handler Pc Dave Wardell from a savage knife attack, suffering terrible stab wounds to chest and head but never letting go of the suspect.
When it later came to justice there was a rightful uproar when the only charge available for the onslaught against Finn was criminal damage. Police dogs are living, sentient beings not mere chattels.
Parliament has responded admirably and Pc Wardell’s North East Hertfordshire MP, Sir Oliver Heald, has seen his backbench bill receive cross-party support and will soon be on the statute books.
The new law will protect service animals on the frontline (Image: PA) This Bill will offer stronger protection for the many brave service animals that help to protect us Michael Gove - Environment Secretary This get-out will be abolished by the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill which has been introduced as private members’ legislation but will now be given Government support when it gets its second reading today.
Finn the hero police dog with Michael Gove and handler Pc Dave Wardell (Image: PA)
Finn the hero dog fighting for his life after being stabbed (Image: Dave Wardell)
Finn the police dog sitting on police car (Image: Dave Wardell)
Finn’s appearance in the House of Lords was not his first visit to Westminster. I had the honour of giving him a bit of a cuddle two years ago when he held centre stage at the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s annual awards ceremony.
Express Newspapers have been supporting the Animal Action Awards for several years, proud to salute the remarkable unsung men and women whose stories of selfless commitment to saving, protecting and nurturing creatures great and small, be they pets, livestock or wildlife, always brings a tear to the eye.
Loudest applause is invariably reserved to the recipient of Animal of the Year, and over the past few years a procession of remarkable dogs have been feted for all manner of remarkable deeds.
Haatchi the Anatolian shepherd dog was badly injured after being hit by a train but has gone on to become the inseparable companion of a boy with a rare genetic condition. Maisie the Labrador was honoured for keeping a girl with Type 1 diabetes out of medical danger by detecting when her blood sugars were dangerously high or low.
Springer spaniel Roscoe, London Fire Brigade’s investigation dog, has helped sniff out the cause of hundreds of suspicious blazes, while Tyke the Labrador had an illustrious career detecting smuggled wildlife and animal products at Heathrow Airport.
Ralph, the golden retriever paired by the Canine Partners charity with a young man paralysed from the chest down after a car crash, was deservedly recognised last October. The incredible assistance dog has been so supportive helping Paul Phillips with daily tasks that he has been able to move into his own flat.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: One survey found that 81 percent of cat owners let their felines sleep on the bed, compared to 73 percent of dog owners.
Finn at IFAW awards at Palace of Westminster (Image: IFAW)
Finn after receiving IFAW award with handler Pc Dave Wardell and Express journalist Stuart Winter (Image: NA)
IFAW is a leading international animal welfare organisation (Image: IFAW)
Appealing for nomiations for this year's awards, David Cowdrey, head of policy and campaigns at IFAW, said: “IFAW’s annual awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the often unsung heroes of animal welfare in the UK: members of the public, and animals, who go the extra mile and demonstrate that we can each make a difference for animals. Finn is a great example of an IFAW award winner, a real dog in a million.
“At IFAW we were all moved by Finn and Dave’s story and proud to stand alongside them to campaign for Finn’s Law. They are a remarkable example of the bond between humans and animals and a reminder that we need to protect all animals.
We are delighted by the passing of this vital piece of legislation which we believe will work as an important deterrent to other serious attacks on the service dogs and horses which put their lives on the line daily to keep us safe.
“Now it is time to find our 2019 animal heroes. We encourage anyone who knows a worthy winner to nominate them today.”
If you know someone who works with animals and deserves recognition and, of course, any deserving animal, please submit their names on the link below. Closing date for nominations is May 31. See: ifaw.org/awards