State Legislature proposes harsher penalties for killing police dogs, horses

Legislation dictating harsher penalties for those who kill or injury police dogs and horse while they are on duty was adopted Tuesday by the state Assembly and Senate.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, was a main sponsor of the proposal in the Assembly.

State and local law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on these animals in crime solving, rescue and recovery operations. Under current law, killing a police animal is a misdemeanor.

The legislation passed by both houses on Tuesday would make harming the animals a felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison, the highest penalty for killing an animal in the state.

“The role of police animals has significantly expanded over the past few years leading to increased use in investigations and apprehensions,” Zebrowski said in a statement “These animals provide protection, assistance and improve public safety.”

“State and local police invest a great deal of time and resources in the training of these extraordinary animals,” he said. “These animals are viewed and respected as ordinary police officers and we should begin to reflect that by increasing the penalty for killing them.”

The rest of the Zebrowski press release says:

Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-C, Newfane, also sponsored the proposed law that helps recognize the important roles these animals have in crime solving, rescue and recovery operations and other duties by creating a felony-level offense.

“Police animals do a remarkable job protecting and serving the citizens of this state,” Maziarz said in a statement released by Zebrowski’s office.

“In 2011, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office lost their K-9, Rocky, when he fell off a roof tracking clues regarding a robbery,” Maziarz said. The use of police animals is increasing and they continually undertake tasks that our own police officers do. It is time that we provide these animals the protection they deserve under the law when they are injured or die in the line of duty.”

In addition to the loss of Rocky, another high-profile death of a police animal came in March 2013 when Ape, a newly-trained FBI dog, was fatally shot as police searched for Kurt Myers – a suspect in the deaths of four people in Herkimer.

“The role of police animals has significantly expanded over the past few years leading to increased use in investigations and apprehensions,” Zebrowski said. “These animals provide protection, assistance and improve public safety. State and local police invest a great deal of time and resources in the training of these extraordinary animals. These animals are viewed and respected as ordinary police officers and we should begin to reflect that by increasing the penalty for killing them.”

Photo: Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski