Hero police dog Finn, who beat the odds to survive horrific knife wounds in the line of duty just over a year ago, is being recognised with a special award.
The eight-year-old German Shepherd, along with handler PC Dave Wardell, 41, from Hertfordshire, were chasing a suspect in the dark through a garden on October 5 last year when both were attacked with a knife.
It resulted in Finn sustaining serious stab wounds to the head and chest and losing a lot of blood. PC Wardell suffered a hand injury.
Despite his injuries, the police pooch held on to the suspect until PC Wardell was able to handcuff him - before Finn was rushed for emergency surgery, where he was deemed to be within minutes of losing his life.
Life-saving open-chest surgery was performed and Finn went on to stage a remarkable recovery, being declared fit for duties just a few weeks later with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (BCH) Dog Unit.
Finn went on to track and catch another suspect on his first night back at work late last year, but was retired from duty just a few months later.
Finn’s experience was movingly documented on social media by PC Wardell, who has no doubt he himself was saved from serious injury or death by Finn’s bravery and loyalty.
And that loyalty was rewarded on Tuesday night when Finn was named 'Animal of the Year' by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords. He was presented with the award by former Springwatch presenter Bill Oddie.
In the last year, PC Wardell began to campaign for ‘Finn’s Law’, calling for attacks on police animals to be upgraded from a criminal damage offence - as they were considered mere ‘property’ at the time - and for an increase in maximum sentencing from just six months in prison to five years.
While Finn has been enjoying his well-deserved retirement at home since the end of March, the impact of his story continues to reap rewards for other animals. The Finn’s Law petition on the UK Government website went on to attract more than 127,000 signatures before the last General Election.
In February this year, such attacks were elevated by the Sentencing Council from the category of criminal damage to an aggravated offence, and at the start of this month Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP announced plans to increase the maximum sentence under the Animal Welfare Act for the most severe cruelty cases to five years in prison.
PC Wardell said: “It has been a crazy year for Finn and I, 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.”
PC Wardell continues to work as an operational handler and instructor with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police Dog Unit, working with other dogs. Finn is not taking it easy in his retirement though, and still enjoys lots of training, walks and fun days out with PC Wardell and his family.
At home, Finn is not short of companions as he is one of six dogs living with PC Wardell, his wife Gemma, 34, and daughters Jaymee, 11, Tia, seven, and five-year-old India.
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.”