HARRISBURG — The House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny/Washington) that would strengthen felony charges for anyone who deliberately harms or kills a K-9 officer in the line of duty.
Maher said the fatal stabbing of K-9 officer Rocco just six weeks ago in Pittsburgh was a stunning loss for Rocco's police partner Officer Phil Lerza, Pittsburgh and the law enforcement community.
Maher said Rocco's violent death also revealed a weak spot in Pennsylvania's animal cruelty laws.
"In Pennsylvania, killing a police dog carries no more penalty than simply taunting one," said Maher. "I believe a far more substantial penalty should apply for violence against K-9 officers."
Under Maher's legislation, a perpetrator would be charged with a felony of the second degree for the willful or malicious torture of a police dog, or if they, mutilate, injure, disable, poison or kill the dog. House Bill 2026 carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and 10 years in prison.
The outpouring of support and expressions of sympathy following Rocco's death reflects the level of respect K-9 officers have in the law enforcement community and among the general public. In fact, as many as 1,200 people, including many police officers and their K-9 partners, attended Rocco's funeral.
"My bill will strengthen the penalties for the despicable act that claimed Rocco's life, and I am hopeful the punishment I am proposing will deter others from committing the same in the future," Maher said.
The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police supports Maher's legislation.
The committee unanimously approved House Bill 2026. The measure now goes to the full House where it is expected to be considered as early as next week.
Copyright 2014 the Public Opinion
McClatchy-Tribune News Service