A PETITION has been launched in a bid to increase legal protection for service animals, including police dogs and horses.

More than 30,000 signatures have already been gathered as part of the campaign, with more animal lovers being urged to show their support.

The petition, organised by Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr, calls for a new criminal offence of causing injury to police dogs.

Currently, it is not a specific crime to injure or kill a police dog.

Mr Kerr has said offenders who harm service animals can only be charged under a patchwork of laws that are “unfit for purpose.”

A new criminal offence of harming or killing a service animal aims to “adequately punish those who harm trained animals like dogs and horses who serve the police, fire service, military or other public services.”

It could also cover assistance animals such as guide dogs.

Mr Kerr said: “It is extremely heartening to see the fantastic number of signatures this petition has gathered in such a short amount of time.

“The support this petition has gathered simply demonstrates the widespread public support for a change to the law to fully protect service animals.

“Hundreds of service animals work with Police Scotland to keep us safe. This includes sniffer dogs, police dogs and horses. They work with the same dedication to duty as the men and women in our police force.

“Unfortunately, our laws don’t protect them the same way and, currently, the law views a police animal as little more than property.

“The Cabinet Secretary must listen to the thousands of voices calling for greater protection and status for service animals and change the law now.”