Van Drew bill honoring Atlantic City Police K-9 ‘Vader’ moves forward

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Van Drew bill honoring Atlantic City Police K-9 ‘Vader’ moves forward Van Drew bill honoring Atlantic City Police K-9 ‘Vader’ moves forward

Legislation sponsored by Senator Van Drew to protect police K-9s and other animals used by law enforcement was approved today by a Senate Committee. The bill is named in honor of Atlantic City Police K-9 ‘Vader,’ one of the most decorated police dogs in the state who has suffered severe physical assaults in the apprehension of criminal suspects, including some which have resulted in his hospitalization.

“Vader has apprehended dozens of criminals in our region since he began his service in 2008, but in doing so has suffered brutal physical assaults and injuries,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic). “Police canines are an important part of law enforcement and play a major role in public safety, and threats to their wellbeing should be treated with the seriousness that they deserve. By enhancing these penalties, we will send a clear message to criminal suspects that any intent to assault a police canine or any law enforcement animal will be met with severe consequences.”

Over the last five decades, the use of trained police canines to assist in the arrest of criminal suspects has become widely accepted by police departments all over New Jersey.  In August 2011, a survey conducted by the United States Police Canine Association (New Jersey, Region 15) reported that: 1 out of 4 physical apprehensions resulted in the police canine being assaulted, and 1 out of 6 physical apprehensions resulted in severe injury to the law enforcement animal.

This legislation (S-79) would create the crime of threatening to kill, maim, or otherwise inflict harm upon a dog, horse or other animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog when the person to whom the threat is made reasonably believes that it is likely that the threat will be carried out.  This crime would be considered a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

This bill is designated “Dano’s and Vader’s Law” in honor of Vader, as well as a narcotics-sniffing dog in the Somerset County Sherriff’s office named Dano who was threatened by a criminal suspect. Under the current law this threatening behavior was punishable by only a disorderly persons’ offense.  K-9 officers note that when their dogs are threatened, they too are in serious danger, because not only are they connected to the animal by leash, but they also keep the dogs in their homes with their families in some cases.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the bill by a vote of 13-0. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.


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