Police dogs in France should be given more protection, an animal rights association has said, especially when their work puts them at risk of mistreatment and cruelty.
The Stéphane Lamart Association has said that police and gendarmerie dogs risk their lives every day, and that threatening them should have harsher sanctions than is currently the case.
For example, the association said that it is calling for a court conviction of aggravated assault against a man in Toulouse who tried to strangle a police dog when he was drunk.
Stéphane Lamart, founder of the association, claims that there is currently “a legal vacuum” on the issue.
He said: “Sentences currently depend on ‘the sensitivity or otherwise of magistrates and judges to the animal cause’ [meaning] we can see diametrically different sentences depending on the judge or the court, and that is not right.”
Mr Lamart would like to see stricter penalties written into the law for people who mistreat police dogs, which sometimes happens during their missions.
He said: "We need to protect their lives more, and that means that the justice system must follow and recognise them as full police officers, or full military personnel, who risk their lives in the same way as their master, with whom they are one and the same.”
Mr Lamart said that it is an “aberration” that a police vehicle is recognised as an ‘aggravating circumstance’ during an assault, but that an attack on a police dog is not.
Law voted by Senate
The association has called on Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to vote on a proposed law against animal abuse.
On October 1, the Senate voted in favour of “creating an aggravating circumstance when acts of cruelty are committed on animals held by agents in the exercise of their duties”.
The penalty is four years' imprisonment and a €60,000 fine.
Mr Lamart called the vote a “victory”, but said that he regretted that “mistreatment” had not been included in the bill. He is now calling for the law to be extended to the horses of the Republican Guard.
‘A soldier’ just like officers
Police dogs are used as an intermediate means of force, “in the same way as a taser or a baton", Officer Frédéric Gaillard, explained to Le Parisien.
But the Charente-based dog handler asserts that his dog, INXS, is a “soldier” in the same way as he is.
INXS, a seven-year-old Malinois Belgian Shepherd named after the Australian rock band, received the national defence medal on Tuesday, October 5. He was recognised for his “exceptional career”, and having “saved the lives of many people”, Officer Gaillard said.
Ce matin, la préfète a remis la médaille de la défense nationale à INXS, berger malinois du groupement de gendarmerie départementale, pour l’ensemble de son action au service de la Nation.— Préfète de la Charente (@Prefet16) October 5, 2021
Félicitations aussi à l’adjudant Gaillard, maître-chien, engagé au quotidien à ses côtés. pic.twitter.com/CUneua5I2x
He has been tracking missing people since 2016, and "more than thirty (of his interventions have) avoided a tragic outcome", said the prefect Magali Debatte.
This included the case of a missing elderly man last August in Charente-Maritime.
Officer Gaillard explained: "This 85-year-old man had left his nursing home in the late afternoon. We found him late at night, wounded and lying in a field of sunflowers.”
INXS is expected to work until he is nine years old, after which he will be adopted as a family pet by his handler.
Police dog work
Some dogs are trained to search for missing persons, while others can sniff out narcotics and explosives, or are used to help arrest individuals.
In 2015 in Saint-Denis, RAID dog Diesel was killed during police campaigns in the aftermath of the November 13 attacks. He received a posthumous medal for bravery, but this is not enough, campaigners say.