A bill known as “Dano’s Law,” would upgrade the penalties for killing, maiming, inflicting harm, or interfering with an animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog or for threatening to do so in New Jersey.

The legislation is named for the canine partner of Somerset County Sheriff’s Officer Capt. Tim Pino, who was threatened during an incident in Hillsboro several years when local police had stopped a suspected drug dealer and asked for assistance from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. The suspected dealer’s boyfriend then appeared on the scene and tried to distract police by threatening to kill Dano. Afterwards, Capt. Pino found that, under current law, the boyfriend could only be charged with a disorderly person’s offense for threatening Dano.

“As a retired Camden Police Lieutenant this bill has special meaning to me,” says bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Whip Wilson. “Dano, like many law enforcement animals, is invaluable to the community and the officers he serves alongside. The full weight of the law should be behind them to provide protection against any unscrupulous offenders who might try to inflict harm while breaking the law.”

The measure upgrades the offense from a fourth degree crime to a third degree crime for purposely maiming or otherwise inflicting harm upon a dog, horse, or other animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog. While a fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, a third degree crime is punishable by three to five years in jail, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.