Finn’s Law. Do police horses have enough protection

Police horses legally protected under Finn's law.

The scenes at the Black Lives Matter protest in London of a police horse bolting riderless down Whitehall past the Cenotaph in terror while others came under attack with bicycles, flares, fireworks and other missiles was quite a poignant reminder of the war horses, and raises the question of whether they have enough protection under Finn’s law. Conservative MP Andrew Griffith thankfully responded to the issue by asking this question of Priti Patel in the House of Commons on Monday 8th. June, 2020:

“I am proud that it was a Conservative Government who introduced Finn’s law to protect our service animals. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that she will not rest until the minority of thugs involved in attacking the police horse, as well as, of course, our brave officers, are brought to justice?”

In response the Secretary of State for the Home Department said:

“My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What we witnessed at the weekend was utterly despicable. I look forward to visiting the mounted police section quite soon. I have had it with authority from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that the injuries to the horse were mild, but importantly, she highlighted yet again how the acts of thuggery are disproportionate to not just police officers, but the animals”.

Coincidentally Finn’s Law or as it is formally named The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill came into force exactly a year to the day these incidents occurred. It was named after a German Shepherd Dog that was stabbed chasing an offender and is designed to protect service animals. It was heralded as the answer to protect them but cannot be effective unless it is enforced stringently and greatly publicised to make possible offenders aware of the protection these animals have and the consequences of injuring them.

But there is also a great need for police horses and dogs to be treated in the same way as the officers when it comes to health and safety assessments of their use in each specific operation or situation. Obviously the real answer is not to use them in the first place. In this instance it did not seem sensible or safe for them to be utilised in a charge of the light brigade type onslaught in wet weather conditions to frighten and push a mob from the streets. I am surprised that horse charities and the RSPCA are not more vociferous over this issue. The incident received press coverage across the world which is not a particularly good UK animal welfare image.

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Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.

3 thoughts on “Finn’s Law. Do police horses have enough protection”

  1. Although I agree with much of what you say, Police horses should not be used when there are feasible alternatives, but having been in that thin blue line, I can tell you that when the bricks and stones are flying its good to know that should the “demonstrators” break through there is another line of defence that will keep civilised members of society and their property safe.
    I see from your article that you think that people injure Police horses on the spur of the moment and would not normally act in this vicious way . I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen Police horse with their hindquarters slashed with cut-throat razors and metal ball bearings rolled under their hooves in an attempt to bring them down with the probability of causes serious injury to the horse. These people did not find the ball bearings and razors on the street – they brought them with them specifically and in a premeditated decision to injure horses.
    It would be nice to think that people on demonstrators were all there to protest lawfully but from my experience that is not the reality.
    Some are there to cause anarchy and to inflict injury on the Police, their horses, dogs, vehicles and buildings.
    You are absolutely right in saying that Police Horses should only be used for ceremonial occasion and I hope one day that will be the case but until the day comes when demonstrations are lawful and peaceful and Officers lives are not put at risk I pray that, for the sake of a civilised society, Police Horses and dogs continue to be used as a back-up for when the thin blue line is in danger of being crushed.
    Enjoy your blog and agree that a civilised society should treat their animals with care and respect and can assure you that Police horses and dogs could not receive better treatment from their handlers. It is society that has to learn to treat animals and each other (including the Police) with respect.

    1. Thanks Gordon,
      Its great to get the viewpoint from someone who has been in the thick of it! In regard to the ” spur of the moment” I was trying to be generous as I am sure what you say is exactly true and only gives me more reason to think they should only be used in exceptional circumstances if at all. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of all the abuse and hatred and you have my admiration.

      1. I’m with you John
        And perhaps one day people with think more like you and there will be no need for horses, dogs or police officers to get injured in order to protect others.
        Keep up the good work.

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