Finn’s Law – What It Means

June 10, 2019

With much fanfare, ‘Finn’s Law’ came in to force on 8th June 2019, following the implementation of the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019.  This new Act makes a straightforward amendment to a section of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

What was the problem?

Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act creates the criminal offence of ‘unnecessary suffering’ in relation to animals.  However there is a defence within the Act, that being if the suffering is ‘necessary’. In several cases where Service Animals (typically police dogs) had assisted in the capture of suspects, and the suspect injured the dog and later claimed self-defence.

In Finn’s case, Finn sustained severe stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against the suspect.

What has changed?

The Animal Welfare Act has been amended in the following way:

When determining if the suffering was necessary it is considered not to be if the animal was under the control of a relevant officer at the time of the conduct, it was being used by that officer at that time, in the course of the officer’s duties, in a way that was reasonable in all the circumstances, and that officer is not the defendant.  In basic terms this removes the self-defence argument.

Could this lead to unintended consequences?

Some people have asked what would happen if a police dog attacked an innocent person (either a bystander or an innocent suspect) – would they too be denied the opportunity to defend themselves lawfully?

The Act does on the face of it suggest that there would be no ‘self-defence’ available. But, in the explanatory notes to the bill that passed through parliament, it was noted:

‘…a person would be able to use the self-defence consideration if the animal attacked them unduly.’

It could therefore easily be argued that a police dog attempting to apprehend an innocent person would be judged to be acting ‘unduly’.

The wording of the Act does, however, leave a lot to be decided and our lawyers will be carefully scrutinising the use of this Act over the coming months to ensure defendants are not deprived of critical legal safeguards.

How Tuckers Solicitors can help you…

To discuss anything to do with Finn’s Law please contact us on 020 7388 8333 or email and we will gladly assist.  

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.