A PETITION urging the Government to give specific legal protection to police dogs if they are attacked in the line of duty, has been backed by Stourbridge MP Margot James.

Currently, offenders only face a criminal damage charge if they injure or kill a police dog but the e-petition is calling on MPs explore the possibility of harsher punishment.

Ms James said: “Any attack on an animal is despicable, and I agree that there should be a far higher punishment for harming police dogs. It is insulting to class such acts as criminal damage. I applaud the campaign to have this changed and would welcome having a better deterrent put in place.”

The petition, which was set up by West Midlands Police puppy walker, Dave Hibbert, has already attracted almost 7,000 signatures.

Dave, who lives in Oldbury added: "Police dogs do a fantastic job protecting our communities and on a daily basis there are examples where dogs have tracked crime suspects, uncovered stolen property or sniffed out vital evidence. They are the first to be called in when dangerous situations occur and they often put themselves on the line to protect their fellow officers.

"However, despite the invaluable work police dogs do for their communities, in law they are only considered property. At present an attack on a police dog would only be considered criminal damage which I don't think provides enough of a punishment or deterrent."

The dog lover, who has also set up a charity to support retired police dogs, said the attacks seemed to be "a growing trend".

He continued: "I feel now is the time to push for a law change recognising the sterling work police dogs do for their communities."

The petition needs 100,000 signatures in order to bring the matter to parliament for discussion.

Dave added: "Even if I don't reach that target I'm hoping the campaign will generate enough support so that MPs take notice and will take our campaign further."

To sign the petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57585