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JULY BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘FABULOUS FINN’ BY Dave Wardell and Lynne Barrett-Lee

We are giving you with a feel-good book for the summer. Fabulous Finn by Dave Wardell and Lynne Barrett-Lee tells the story behind Finn’s Law, which came into force earlier this year.

Many people will now be familiar with the story of Finn, the police dog who is the subject of this book. Finn was seriously injured in the line of duty, and this book recounts the circumstances and aftermath of Finn’s attack, including the impact of the attack, both upon him and his handler and also the road to recovery for them both. However, it is far from a grim read. It beautifully portrays the relationship between man and dog and gives a real insight into the training and working life of dogs in service.

The book shines a spotlight on the difficulties there were – prior to the change in law – in bringing a successful prosecution against a person who deliberately injured an animal working in service for the police. Dave Wardell, Finn’s handler, describes the ineffectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act in such circumstances and the inadequacy of penalties under that Act: Even if charged at all, a defendant would usually only face a charge of criminal damage. As Dave Wardell himself writes in the book: ‘It’s the same law that applies if, say, someone smashes a window, breaks a plant pot, stamps on a laptop or purposely runs their car into a garden wall – as damaging a ‘thing.’ And this is true of all service animals in terms of law, they are considered to be of no more consequence than a piece of inanimate property.’

The book was published before the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019 (so-called ‘Finn’s Law’) received Royal Assent in April this year, which makes it easier to bring a prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act in respect of injuries causing unnecessary suffering to an animal under the control of a police or prison custody officer and being used appropriately at the time of injury.

It is an inspiring story, not simply because it led to a change in law, but for the reasons why it did so. The book helps us to understand the reasons why so many people felt a sense of injustice about Finn’s treatment under the criminal justice system and how this became such a high-profile campaign.

Review by Paula Sparks

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