It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend James Cartlidge in this Third Reading debate. I, too, congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Oliver Heald on getting the Bill to this stage. I supported his Bill when it was a ten-minute rule Bill, going back well over a year now, and it was a great pleasure to serve on the Bill Committee. I have been able to see his dogged determination to get the Bill to this stage.
The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, to give it its full title, is more commonly known as Finn’s law. It is great that Finn is here today. The Bill is a much needed reform to ensure that the perpetrators who injure animals in service get the sentence they truly deserve. I was honoured to meet Finn and his handler, PC Dave Wardell, when they came to Parliament during the Committee stage of the Bill. From my childhood, I have had a fear of Alsatians and German Shepherds, so it took quite a lot of courage for me to go up to meet Finn when he was in New Palace Yard, but he was so docile and loved being made a fuss of. However, I was assured by PC Wardell that if he gave the command, the dog would have become a very, very different dog. Luckily, he did not need to give that command, so we were all safe, but we did not get to see a police dog in true action, which I know is quite spectacular. Police dogs are trained meticulously, and that is so important. They are really, really skilled animals. Just as we respect people with skills, from a human point of view, we also need to respect animals with such skills. I commend all police dogs and their handlers for those skills.
This new piece of legislation could so easily have been called Axle’s law. Police dog Axle, better known as PD Axle, is another police dog that was almost killed when he was stabbed three times in nearby Amber Valley in Derbyshire. The attacker had tried to attack a police officer while avoiding arrest earlier that day. After stabbing Axle, he threatened another police officer with a knife. I am sure that all Members will be pleased to learn that PD Axle has recovered from emergency treatment and is now back on duty. Everybody was really pleased to see that. Axle received very many good-will messages. There were posts on social media and requests to know where to send goody bags with doggy treats. Axle became quite a celebrity, just as Finn has. He has perhaps put on a few pounds from eating all the doggy treats as he was recovering.
This Bill is much needed in order to protect our heroic service animals and to ensure that all those who harm these wonderful animals get a sentence they really deserve. I am delighted to support it today.