FINN the hero police dog has been named Animal of the Year for bravery and devotion to his loyal handler.
The handsome German Shepherd came within a whisker of dying from horrific stab wounds tackling a dangerous suspect.
Despite losing huge amounts of blood, eight year old Finn kept a firm grip on the knifeman while his wounded colleague, Pc Dave Wardell, managed to put the detainee in handcuffs.
Finn will be guest of honour at tomorrow’s International Fund for Animal Welfare awards ceremony at the House of Lords – an event sponsored by Express Newspapers.
For the now deservedly-retired Hertfordshire Police dog, the frightening events of last year have seen him become the symbol of a nationwide call for frontline animals caught up in violence on active service to receive justice.
Demands for a so-called Finn’s Law – where criminals get a heftier sentence for cruelty to a service animal than the current six months – has attracted a 127,000 signature petition and also seen ministers pledging to introducing punishments of up to five years.
The Sentencing Council has also elevated such attacks as aggravated offences.
Finn’s 16 year old attacker later received four months’ detention, a sentence described as disappointing by Finn’s handler.
Within weeks of recovering from open heart surgery after the attack in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, last October, Finn and Pc Wardell, who suffered a hand wound in the incident, were collaring another suspect on their first night back on patrol.
Finn subsequently retired from active duty. For Pc Wardell, who is now working with other animals in the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police Dog Unit, Finn’s recognition by IFAW is well deserved.
PC Wardell said on the eve of the award ceremony: “It has been a crazy year for Finn and me, a real emotional rollercoaster, it still feels very raw now but we have at least turned negatives into positives as much as possible.
“I was really blown away to hear that Finn was to receive the IFAW Animal of the Year Award, not just because IFAW has been a group at the forefront of the push to change legislation but also it is an honour to see Finn’s actions recognised with this award.”
Finn is still a much-loved pet in the Wardell household, enjoying continued training as well as lots of walks with his family. Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Finn is a truly remarkable dog in a million.
“His defence of his handler and his dedication to duty shows the special relationships that can exist between dogs and people.
“Similarly, PC Wardell’s tireless campaign following the devastating attack on his canine best friend is admirable and we hope it will help prevent similar attacks on police animals in the future.
“Finn is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Animal of the Year Award.
“IFAW has been proud to support PC Wardell and Finn in the campaign for better deterrents against attacks on service animals.
“With the Government consultation on the much-needed increase in sentencing for animal cruelty cases due before the end of the year, it is vital that we all keep up the pressure for the Government to keep its promise on this, and for police animals to be specifically recognised in this legislation.”