A petition calling for tougher sanctions for those who attack police horses or dogs is set to be debated by MPs in Parliament this afternoon (Monday, 14 November).
More than 122,500 people have now signed the petition to give serving police animals in UK “officer” status, and protection that reflects this.
David Mackintosh, Tory MP for Northampton, is expected to introduce the debate in the House of Commons at 4.30pm today.
PC David Burstow launched the online petition on 10 October following the stabbing of a police dog and his handler in Stevenage. It received nearly 25,000 signatures in two days.
The Home Office has responded to the petition, which runs until April 2017.
A Home Office spokesman said that attacks on police support animals are “unacceptable” and should be dealt with under the criminal law, which allows for up to 10 years in prison for perpetrators.
“Police support animals make a valuable contribution in the detection and prevention of crime and in maintaining public safety,” he said.
“The government agrees that attacks of any sort on police dogs or horses are unacceptable and should be dealt with severely under the criminal law.”
The spokesman added an attack on a police animal can be considered under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, where the maximum penalty is six months in prison and an unlimited fine.
He said that under some circumstances, assaults on support animals could be treated as criminal damage, for which penalties can range up to 10 years behind bars.
“An additional offence dealing specifically with attacks on police animals or a move to change their legal status is unnecessary in light of the maximum penalties already in place,” he said.
“An additional and separate offence may not result in more prosecutions, or increased sentences.”
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Government officials are expected to be meeting with police animal leaders over “the coming weeks” to discuss the extent of the problem of attacks on police animals further.
Watch the debate live here from 4.30pm