By Joel Landau
The Press of Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A bill named after an Atlantic City police K-9 that makes it illegal to threaten an animal used by a law enforcement agency is now law.
Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill, designated as "Dano's and Vader's Law," on Wednesday.
The bill, which is named in honor of Vader, a retired K9 dog with the city's Police Department and a Somerset County Sheriff's office dog named Dano, increases the penalty for threatening a dog used by law enforcement.
The previous penalty was a disorderly persons offense, but now the action would be considered a fourth-degree offense punishable by as many as 18 months in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000. There is also a mandatory 90-day jail sentence for people convicted of the charge, said Vader's partner, Atlantic City police Sgt. Frank Timek.
Vader, 7 years old, is now retired. During his police career from January 2008 to May 2012 he was hit, choked, had fingers pointed into his eyes and objects thrown at him, Timek said.
Timek said that Vader apprehended 172 criminal suspects, with 42 of them brought into custody by physical apprehension. About a third of those apprehensions resulted in Vader being physically assaulted by the suspects.
Timek thanked the lawmakers for adopting the changes so quickly. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.
"It's probably the most significant change in the law for the K9 profession," Timek said. "It will send a message to would-be criminals of hands off our dogs, which is cool."
An August 2011 survey conducted by the United States Police Canine Association reported that one out of four physical apprehensions resulted in the police canine being assaulted, and one out of six physical apprehensions resulted in severe injury to the law enforcement animal.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 The Press of Atlantic City