ALBANY, N.Y. – Effective November 1, the killing of a police animal will be a felony offense in New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday that will hold individuals responsible for the killing of specially-trained police animals. The new law will make the killing of a police dog or a police horse while it is performing its duties a class E felony, an increased charge from the current class A misdemeanor.
"Police animals go where others will not in order to keep law enforcement officials and all New Yorkers safe from harm and it's a tragedy when one is killed," Governor Cuomo said. "This new law will hold the guilty parties accountable and offer better protections for these highly trained animals who are important members of our law enforcement community."
Law enforcement agencies have increasingly relied on the use of animals to assist with a variety of tasks to protect New Yorkers, including crime solving as well as rescue and recovery operations.
In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Tactical K-9 "Ape" was killed in the line of duty while accompanying agents who were attempting to arrest Kurt Myers, the suspected killer of four people in Herkimer. Ape was shot by the suspect during a shootout with police, who then returned fire killing the suspect.
Albany County Sheriff Deputy Patrick Strollo has been with his canine partner George for a year.
"Basic school was 20 weeks and we stayed out at the academy and then from there it is just training as often as we can get it"
Strollo said George has become a vital part of what the police force does.
"Going into harm's way to protect people is what we do," he said.
Now, thanks to the new law, George will get a little extra protection from the state.
"You know we have come a million miles but we have a million miles to go," said State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco who co-sponsored the bill.
He has been a long-time proponent of animal rights and says this law will not only protect the animals themselves, but also send a message.
"The message is this, if you hurt one of our K9 animals these law enforcement animals you are going to spend a lot of time in jail this will be a deterrent in terms of not doing that and secondarily it's deterrent because you are going to be off the streets for a longer period of time if you are an abuser of animals," said Tedisco.
In addition to increasing the charge, Cuomo signed legislation that would allow police departments to waive the requirement that a police dog be confined for 10 days after biting an individual while performing official duties. Under current law, dogs are detained for a 10-day observation period after biting an individual for precautionary reasons to protect against possible rabies exposure.
Cuomo said that dogs are a vital part of a police department's mission and that the new law, which will go into effect immediately, would allow law enforcement to receive a waiver from a local health department based on the dog's up-to-date rabies vaccinations that would to allow the dog to immediately return to duty.