A police force has issued all of its working dogs with protective vests after one of them was stabbed while on duty.Police dog Canto almost died after he was stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife as officers tried to arrest an armed man at a house in Bridgnorth, Shropshire in 2017. Amazingly, the five-year-old German Shepherd survived, made a full recovery and was able to return to duty but the incident raised concerns about dogs’ safety. Now, Canto’s force, West Mercia Police is one of the first in the UK to equip its working dogs with body armour.
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All of the force’s 40 canines will each get their own custom-made vest, which will protect them from knives, bladed weapons and other blunt objects.
The armour also includes lining first used in space suits to keep the pooches cool while on duty.PC Emma Worrell, PD Canto’s handler who was on duty with him when he was attacked, said: ‘If at the time Canto was equipped with one of these vests it could have helped protect him from the weapon and saved him from the pain and injury it inflicted on him.
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‘Protecting our force’s police dogs means a lot to myself, as I have witnessed first-hand my own dog being seriously injured in the line of duty so I welcome this move and can’t wait for them to be wearing them when responding to incidents.’The vests have been rolled out after extensive testing following the introduction of ‘Finn’s Law’ in 2019. The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act prevents those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence.
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The law is named after Finn, a police dog stabbed while pursuing a suspect with a knife in 2016.
The law makes it harder for those who harm service animals to claim it was an act of self-defence, rather than be treated as criminal damage.Chief constable Pippa Mills, of West Mercia Police who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for police dogs, said: ‘Our dogs carry out a vital role in supporting frontline policing and are an important part of our policing family.
‘They are often the first to run towards a potential threat and can be at risk of being harmed.
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‘Sadly, we have experienced how it can affect the force when a dog is injured during the line of duty and it means a lot that we are able to equip our dogs with these protective vests to help prevent them from harm.‘Dog welfare is one of my top priorities as NPCC lead for police dogs and I want to ensure that we continue to protect our animals, as much as we protect our officers.’
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