Many constituents have contacted me recently about the protection of police dogs and horses, suggesting that new legislation (Finn’s Law) is introduced.

As you may be aware, a debate was held in Parliament on this matter in November and you can read it in full, including the Minister’s reply, here: http://tinyurl.com/jxaychx

I completely agree that police support animals make a valuable contribution in the detection and prevention of crime and in maintaining public safety. I am extremely grateful for the bravery and skill shown by police dogs and their handlers on a daily basis. Attacks of any sort on police dogs or horses are unacceptable and should be dealt with severely under the criminal law.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 an attack on a police dog or other police support animal can be treated as causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and the maximum penalty is 6 months' imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. Indeed the financial element of the penalty was raised in 2015 from a maximum fine of £20,000. Similarly an attack on a police animal could be considered by the court as an aggravating factor leading to a higher sentence. Under some circumstances assaults on support animals could be treated as criminal damage which would allow for penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The Government has now requested that the Sentencing Council considers assaults on police animals as an aggravating factor as a part of their current review on guidelines for sentencing in the Magistrates' Courts, which includes animal cruelty offences.

I understand the strength of feeling for animals that keep us safe andwork across Government is underway to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to police animals and all working animals.

I will continue to make sure the Government is doing everything it can to protect police officers, staff and the animals that support them in their duties.