North Down MLA Alex Easton has welcomed cross-party support for a DUP proposal brought the Assembly today that ‘Finn’s Law’ should be introduced to Northern Ireland.The call was made during an Assembly debate proposed by Mr Easton.

Speaking after the debate the DUP MLA said,

“This law was inspired by a Police dog called Finn who was almost killed protecting his handler from attack. The stab injuries he received required lifesaving surgery yet the only offence his attacker could be charged with was criminal damage. The law passed across the rest of the United Kingdom corrected that injustice that wilful harm to a service animal would be treated in law in the same way as breaking a window.

The Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill passed in the House of Commons covers England and Wales and similar legislation is coming forward in Scotland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where service animals do not have that legal protection.

These courageous animals carry out a vital service in assistance to police officers, prison service staff, fire and rescue personnel and others. I am delighted that the campaign, which has been take forward with such determination by the Finns Law Northern Ireland group and supported by a petition of over 44,000 people in Northern Ireland, received unanimous backing across the Assembly chamber. It is obviously particularly pleasing that the DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has signalled that he is sympathetic to the proposal for greater protection to be afforded to service animals and he will consult with Ministerial colleagues and the public about the necessary legislation.

Today’s debate is only the very first step in the process and I will continue to support the Minister in any way possible during the remainder of this Assembly term to see this legislation introduced as soon as possible.

This is an issue above party politics and bringing forward this legislation will be something that everyone can be proud of, regardless of their political viewpoint. Northern Ireland has led the way previously on issues of animal cruelty sentencing but it is something we must always review and work to ensure that animals are given the protection they deserve and anyone who would seek to cause harm to an animal will receive a sentence which fits the severity of their actions.”