Finn’s Law: Man thought to be first charged after police dog attack

A 29-year-old Liverpool man is believed to have become one of the first people to be charged under the newly enforced Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act for causing unnecessary suffering to a police dog.

Dan O’Sullivan, from the Litherland area of the city, has also been charged with five counts of assaulting police officers, possession of offensive weapons and affray.

It follows an incident in which police were called to reports of a man armed with a knife in Town Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, on Monday afternoon.

As officers tried to detain the suspect, police dog Audi received a stab wound to the side of his head.

Detective Inspector Stephen Ward said no officers were seriously harmed and PD Audi is now recovering from his ordeal.

“His injuries seem to be soft tissue-related and he is likely to be out of action for a short time,” he said.

The dog only joined Staffordshire Police in early April.

Chief Inspector Donna Harvey, from Staffordshire Police, said after the incident on Monday: “Police dogs are our family, not property, and our thoughts are with the dog and his handler at this time.”

The new legislation aimed at giving greater protection to all service animals came into force last month.

Known as Finn’s Law, it introduced tougher penalties for those convicted of harming police dogs and horses, and was introduced following the high-profile case of hero police dog Finn, a German shepherd who was brutally stabbed as he protected his handler from a suspect with a knife in 2016.

The dog nearly died from wounds to his chest and head, but as the law then stood the offence could only be classified as criminal damage.

The new law also means self-defence can’t be used as a line of argument in court.

It sits alongside government plans to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences to five years in prison.

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