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Avon and Somerset police dogs trial body armour

Police dog in body armour Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption The force said the dogs were "hugely valued" members of the team

Police dogs in Avon and Somerset are being given body armour in a trial to protect their safety on the job.

Animals in the firearms support team are taking part in the pilot, and the vests being trialled feature a blue flashing strobe light.

It comes after a police dog was stabbed in Hertfordshire in 2016 and ahead of a parliamentary debate next week calling for better protection for service dogs.

The force said the animals were "hugely valued" members of the team.

Dogs inspector Shane Hawkings said: "We're currently trialling different types of body armour for our tactical firearms support dogs.

"Choosing this equipment is a balancing act between making sure they are safe, while ensuring they're still able to do their job effectively."

Image copyright Herts Police
Image caption PC Dave Wardell and Finn had been working together for seven years

The Service Animals (Offences) Bill aims to broaden sentencing powers when a service animal is injured.

"Finn's law" was introduced after police dog Finn needed surgery after being stabbed with a 10-inch knife while chasing a suspect in October 2016.

It culminated in a Parliamentary debate leading to a revision in the Sentencing Council guidelines for dealing with animal attacks.

The changes mean offenders can get stiffer sentences for attacking police dogs or horses, but campaigners want the animals to be given the same status as injured officers.

At the time, Finn's injuries were not considered "serious enough" to warrant a separate penalty for the attacker in court.

The suspect was convicted of actual bodily harm for the injuries to PC Wardell and criminal damage for the knife injuries to Finn.

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