- By Office of NYS Senator Pam Helming
Senator Pam Helming (R, C, I-54th District) is announced her co-sponsored legislation to better protect police work animals passed the State Senate last week. The bill (S.00961), known as Mitchell's Law, would make it a class D felony to kill a police work animal and a class E felony for intentionally injuring a police work animal in the line of duty.
"K-9s and police horses are highly trained to carry out a number of dangerous tasks for law enforcement officials and increase public safety," said Helming. "By increasing the penalties for attacking these important animals, we can better protect them, law enforcement officials and the public they serve."
The legislation is named after Jamestown Police Department K-9 Officer Mitchell, a six-year-old German Shepherd, who was grievously injured during a confrontation with a suspected murderer following a six-hour standoff in November 2016. During the apprehension, K-9 Officer Mitchell was stabbed in the throat and under his jaw, causing the knife to penetrate his tongue, sustaining life-threatening injuries that required emergency surgery.
"Attacking a police animal is a terrible crime and the punishment should reflect its severity," said Helming. "I also feel strongly that the penalties under this new legislation better reflect the more expansive and dangerous roles that police animals have in protecting our communities and officers."
Helming noted that under existing law, a suspect can only be charged with a Class E felony for an attack that intentionally kills a police work dog or police work horse. Despite the severity of his wounds, K-9 Officer Mitchell's attacker could only be charged with a class A misdemeanor because the stabbing did not result in death.
"I urge my colleagues in the Assembly Majority to bring this important bi-partisan public protection bill to the floor for a vote and pass it before the conclusion of this year's Legislative Session," concluded Helming.
The legislation has now been sent to the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Titone.