West Yorkshire Police have backed a national campaign to give police dogs and horses the same rights as police officers if they are assaulted in the line of duty.

The call has come after police dog Finn was stabbed last month in Stevenage and has sparked the national petition for #FinnsLaw which has already gained 77,706 signatures.

But despite the serious attack on the animal the suspect has been charged with criminal damage not assault, as the current law does not protect animals in the same way as officers.

And police in West Yorkshire say their officers have witnessed dogs being kicked, punched and even strangled in the past – with one assault a month on average.

Hertfordshire Police of a police dog named Finn that was left seriously injured after being repeatedly stabbed while chasing an armed suspect

Police horses have also been assaulted in the line of duty.

Chief Supt Tim Kingsman, who oversees West Yorkshire Police’s Protective Services Operations, home of the force’s Dog Support Unit, said: “The Dog Support Unit and Mounted Section are very much part of our policing family.

“The dogs and their handlers are an incredibly valuable asset in helping to detect crime, detain offenders and protect the vulnerable. It is difficult to understand how or why people think it is acceptable to assault an animal, any more than a person and I wholeheartedly support the campaign that our four-legged crimefighting heroes are acknowledged the same way as officers in the law.”

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The petition, set up by David Burstow on the UK government’s petition site, proposes that police animals “be given protection that reflects their status if assaulted in the line of duty.”

Chief Insp Aidy Waugh, who used to be a dog handler, added: “Police dogs and horses are more than just our tools to do the job, they become part of our family and should have the same rights as officers if assaulted in the line of duty.”

West Yorkshire police horse Bud was punched by a fan at the Newcastle versus Sunderland match in April 2013.

In October, 2013 a 45-year-old man was jailed after punching West Yorkshire Police horse Bud, who was on crowd control duty at a Newcastle v Sunderland ‘derby’ match when violence broke out.

Barry Rogerson, of Hartlands, Bedlington, was jailed for 12 months for violent disorder.

His solicitor Robert Adams told Newcastle Crown Court: "He did not punch a human or a police officer or a Sunderland fan and I anticipate he probably hurt himself more than the horse.”

To sign the petition go to https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/168678 #FinnsLaw