We launched a free educational toolkit to educate primary and secondary school pupils about animals’ emotions and the power of the human-animal bond at the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
We have teamed up with retired police dog, ‘Fabulous Finn’ and his owner and handler, PC Dave Wardell, to share their story as a way of recognising that animals have feelings too.
In 2016, Finn was viciously stabbed whilst on duty. When the attacker aimed a second blow at PC Dave Wardell, Finn dived in front of his handler, despite his life-threatening injuries, and saved Dave’s life. Finn’s handler and owner, PC Dave Wardell, said, “Fabulous Finn and I are enormously proud to be a part of this very important project with the Scottish SPCA.
“Animals have always been incredibly important to me when growing up with a parent who had mental health issues. We want to show children how important the human-animal relationship can be and how we can learn so much from our animals.
“We have heard so many wonderful stories of how pets have supported people through the pandemic, for example. That bond can be second to none. That bond is what saved my life in 2016. That bond is what helped change a number of laws. It’s that bond that saw us reach the finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2019, a platform we used to discuss animal welfare and our campaigns to over ten million people.
“Kaye Nightingale was a huge help during the Finn's Law campaign journey and joins us on this project. She created Finn’s four Ps for political campaigning (Polite, Positive, Persistent, Persuasion) and constantly has ideas to bring about change for good."
Scottish SPCA Head of Education, Policy and Research, Gilly Mendes Ferreira, said, “The free toolkit focuses on bringing the human-animal bond to life through the use of real stories like Finn and Dave’s and aims to encourage young people to recognise that animals have emotions too and how having relationships with animals can positively affect our lives.
“The toolkit includes interactive games, quizzes and activities which link to all areas of the curriculum. We have a toolkit for primary schools and a separate toolkit for secondary schools which can be accessed via the Scottish SPCA website: https://scottishspca.org/fabulous-finn
“Dave and Finn have been friends of the Scottish SPCA for many years and we feel now is the right time for Finn in particular to be able to share his wisdom and help inspire the next generation ahead of World Storytelling Day.”
Finn went on to inspire Finn’s Law which brought more robust legal protections for service animals. Maurice Golden, MSP for North East Scotland, vehemently supported the passing of Finn’s Law.
Mr Golden, who is sponsoring the launch event at Holyrood, said, “The story of Finn and Dave is nothing short of inspirational. The unbridled loyalty and bravery shown by Finn is evidence of the feelings dogs have and their unique bond with people.
“Anything that raises awareness of that to Scotland’s children should be encouraged and supported. Dog owners right across Scotland see all of that in their beloved pets every single day but if we are to improve the welfare and treatment of animals, more initiatives like this need to take place to ensure that awareness spreads among future generations.
“That’s one of the reasons I am also seeking to change the law to make dog theft a specific offence in Scotland, rather than one considered alongside the theft of a household commodity. Dogs are so much more than belongings – they are treasured parts of the family – and it’s vital the law of the land recognises that.”
Finn and Dave’s tale is just one example of the strength of the human-animal bond.
The Scottish SPCA rescues and rehabilitates thousands of dogs every year and some have even gone on to do important roles just like Finn.
Phoenix was rescued from a puppy farm in Aberdeenshire in 2017. He was cared for at the Scottish SPCA Glasgow Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre before joining the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Phoenix’s handler and fire investigation officer, Jonathan Honeyman, said, ““Phoenix has come on leaps and bounds since we first started working together.
“He can detect the slightest trace of ignitable liquids up to one metre below debris left by a fire. He is without doubt a valued member of our investigation team.
“Phoenix not only enhances our fire investigation capabilities at complex fire scenes, but he will support our partners and contribute hugely to community engagement work, also providing comfort and wellbeing support to the victims of traumatic fire.”
Incredible stories like Phoenix and Finn’s demonstrate how having a strong connection with an animal can support our health and wellbeing, and the importance of taking care of animals’ emotional needs in return.
Schools will have the opportunity to meet Dave and Finn at the Society’s virtual events on Friday 25 March. School teachers or parents/carers can sign up at: https://meetfabulousfinn.eventbrite.co.uk