Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA, has called for action to be taken to avoid the situation arising whereby service animals across Northern Ireland such as police dogs, will have no legal protection from attack, unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK.
Robin Swann said:
“The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, known as Finn's Law, received Royal Assent in April and it has already come into force earlier this month.
“The law is named after Finn, a police dog in England that was attacked whilst in the line of duty. Finn was stabbed in the chest and head while protecting his handler from a knife wielding suspect and was not expected to survive. If it were not for the dog’s efforts, and especially the fact that it refused to let go until reinforcements arrived, it is very likely that the police officer would have been murdered. Luckily Finn did pull through but only minor criminal damage charges - those equivalent for breaking a window - could be brought against his attacker.
“Public opinion across England was understandably outraged and a campaign quickly grew for new legislation to protect service animals, such as police dogs and horses.
“The new law applies only to England and Wales, and the Scottish Parliament has already committed to passing equivalent legislation this year. Very soon that means that across the United Kingdom, only the animals that serve and protect us in Northern Ireland will be left without any real legal protections.
“If we had a functioning Assembly, Ulster Unionist MLAs would be seeking to pass equivalent legislation here. Unfortunately however, for as long as the current political impasse rumbles on, then this is just likely to be yet another example of how Northern Ireland is being failed.
"In the meantime I would urge all the other Parties to look into the issue so that in the event of the Assembly finally being restored, new legislation could be introduced and passed quickly.”