Anyone who threatens or harms a law enforcement animal would see tougher penalties under a measure that's been advanced by a Senate panel.  Assemblymen Nelson Albano, Matthew Milam and Gilbert "Whip" Wilson sponsored the bill.

Police Dogs Would Get More Protections in NJ (Flickr: 111 Emergency)

"Often times, law enforcement animals are on the front lines, putting themselves in harm's way right along with their human counterparts," said Albano.  "They are highly trained and a tremendous asset to police operations.  Any intentional harm inflicted on these animals is not only cruel, but it impedes law enforcement operations and negates the enormous time and effort put into training these highly specialized animals."

The bill, known as "Dano's Law," would upgrade penalties for killing, maiming, inflicting harm, or interfering with a law enforcement animal.  It's named after the canine partner of Somerset County Sheriff's Oficer Captain Tim Pino, who was threatened during an incident in Hillsboro 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 appeared on the scene and tried to distract police by threatening to kill Dano.  Under current law, the man could only be charged with a disorderly person's offense.

"As a retired Camden Police Lieutenant this bill has special meaning to me," said 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 bill would upgrade the offense from a fourth degree crime to a third degree crime.  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.

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