ALBANY, N.Y. --The state senate passed legislation Monday that would increase the penalty for killing or injuring a police animal.
The senate bill has received newfound attention following the shooting of FBI K-9 Ape in Herkimer at the conclusion of a standoff with an armed gunman who had already shot six people, four fatally.
"I call Ape the ‘Hero of Herkimer' for his courageous sacrifice and feel he, and all police animals, deserve our respect and gratitude," said Senator Seward. "Ape gave his life to protect others and that kind of bravery should be honored. A tougher law that provides a real punishment for those who harm and kill police animals is the right thing to do."
Under current law, killing or injuring a police animal is a class A misdemeanor. The senate bill which passed by unanimous vote would increase the penalty to a class D felony.
"Legislation revising the penalties associated with killing a police animal has received state senate support in the past. The attention of Ape's death has generated added interest and brought a number of assembly members on board as well," Seward added.
The bill has been sent to the assembly.
NEWS CENTER 10 ABC spoke with Albany County Sheriff's Office Deputy Patrick Strollo about his connection with 2 ½-year-old George, a K-9 officer with the department since last July.
"Personally it's great because I can complain about work to him and he's right there to agree with me or I can talk about what a great sunny day it is and he agrees with me there too," said Strollo about his relationship with George.
For handlers like deputy Strollo, who spend 24 hours a day with their partners, the death of Ape hit close to home - but they know it comes with the territory.
"George and I have a system we go through whether it be searching for a suspect or sniffing a car for drugs, and if bad things present itself while we're doing it, we're prepared for it," said Strollo.
George is also a fierce protector of deputy Strollo, who feels the same way.
"I got to make sure he's also safe. So normally when I would be on a traffic stop it would be just me watching my own back, and now I've got to make sure he's safe too," said Strollo.