Scotland

Consultation on animal cruelty punishments

Police dog Finn Image copyright BCH Police Dogs
Image caption German Shepherd Finn was stabbed in the head and chest after pursuing a suspect in 2016

Views on increasing punishments for animal cruelty are being sought by the Scottish government.

The consultation covers plans to increase the maximum punishment for animal cruelty from 12 months to five years in prison. An unlimited fine is also being proposed.

It also covers the potential for a version of "Finn's Law".

This would increase punishment for crimes against service animals such as police dogs and horses.

The campaign for Finn's Law follows an attack on a police dog of the same name, who was stabbed while protecting his handler from an armed suspect.

The consultation also covers plans to rehome animals more quickly.

Mairi Gougeon, minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, said she wanted to see penalties increased for the worst animal welfare offences.

'Truly horrendous crimes'

She said: "Right now, the maximum penalty someone can receive is 12 months in prison or a £20,000 fine but we think for some of the horrific and truly horrendous crimes we see those penalties should be tougher.

"We're also trying to make it easier for organisations such as the SSPCA to rehome animals which have been seized if there are concerns in relation to their welfare too and to really make that whole process simpler.

"If we increase the penalties in relation to some of the worst offences that would include attacks on service animals such a police dogs and police horses."

She added that the government was also looking to introduce fixed penalties for some of the "lesser offences" in the hope that the penalties would act as a deterrent.

"The penalties should reflect the crime", she said.

What happened to Finn the police dog?

Image copyright Herts Police
Image caption PC Dave Wardell and Finn had been working together for seven years when a knife attack almost took the dog's life

German Shepherd Finn was left critically injured after being stabbed in Stevenage in October 2016. Handler PC Dave Wardell suffered a minor hand injury.

PD (Police Dog) Finn and PC Wardell were attacked by a boy armed with a 30cm (12in) hunting knife.

Finn was stabbed in the chest and head but did not let go until police reinforcements arrived. The wound came within an inch of the dog's heart and punctured a lung.

He was not expected to survive, but vets spent four hours saving his life.

While the suspect was charged with actual bodily harm for wounding PC Wardell's hand, he was only charged with criminal damage for injuring Finn.

A photograph of Finn's stomach wound, held together with 30 stitches, prompted an online campaign - championed by PC Wardell - for a change in the law regarding injuries to police support animals.

It became known as Finn's Law and culminated in a parliamentary debate which led to stricter sentencing guidelines in England and Wales.

The pair returned to duty 11 weeks later after a lengthy recovery.

Finn retired from duty in March at the age of eight, and now lives with the Wardell family.

A 16-year-old boy was convicted of the attack in June.

Image caption Finn retired at the end of March and took his first seaside holiday

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