Bill would hike penalty for injuring police dogs

HARRISBURG -- A bill crafted in the wake of the death of police canine Rocco to increase the penalty for injuring or killing a police dog passed the Pennsylvania House without opposition Tuesday.

"Today's unanimous vote in the House sends a clear message that such vicious attacks against K-9 officers will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania," said a statement from Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, who has been a champion of animal issues previously. "Rocco's life was dedicated to protecting our neighbors. His tragic and senseless death deserves a strong and decisive response and I believe we achieved that today."

The bill would impose a higher criminal penalty -- up to a $25,000 fine and as long as 10 years in prison -- for injuring or killing a police dog.

Currently, such a crime could bring a fine of up to $15,000 or up to seven years in prison.

The change was prompted by the death of Rocco earlier this year; the dog was stabbed while helping to apprehend a suspect.

The bill passed the House 201-0; the legislation is expected to pass the Senate as well.

"We are pleased the state Legislature has seen fit to view the killing of a police K-9 with the seriousness that it deserves. It is assuring that K-9 Officer Rocco did not die in vain," said Sonya Toler, a police spokeswoman.

The 8-year-old German Shepherd died Jan. 30, two days after being stabbed in an altercation.

Pittsburgh police say he was stabbed while trying to apprehend a 21-year-old homeless man named John Rush in a scuffle that also left multiple human officers wounded. Rush, formerly of McKees Rocks, remains in the jail without bail while he awaits trial.

Kate Giammarise: Liz Navratil: First Published March 18, 2014 11:35 PM

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