New Legislation Would Impose Stricter Penalties for Harming, Threatening Police Dogs

A new piece of legislation that would upgrade charges against anyone hurting or threatening an animal involved in law enforcement is making its way through the legislature. The bill, called Dano’s Law, is named after a canine who was threatened by an alleged drug dealer.

Dano is Capt. Tim Pino’s canine partner, specializing in narcotics detection. The pair has worked together at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years. Dano lives with Pino’s family, making the bond between them even stronger. When an alleged drug dealer was arrested, he threatened to have Dano killed.

Pino said those kinds of threats aren’t uncommon because drug dealers know canines pose a serious threat to their livelihood. “It’s not uncommon for these drug dealers to put a hit out on a police canine — $5,000 or $10,000 to kill a dog — because it’s costing them sometimes over a hundred grand a week in business,” he said.

Pino wanted better protections for canines so he contacted Sheriff Frank Provenzo who got in touch with local and state officials for help. Together, they came up with Dano’s Law. The legislation would upgrade charges against anyone hurting or threatening an animal involved in law enforcement from a fourth degree crime to a third degree crime, making it punishable by three to five years in jail.

“There was a law in place that would protect them, but this bill added a clause particularly that you cannot threaten that service animal, you can’t make threats against the life or injure that animal,” Assemblyman John DiMaio explained.

Provenzo doesn’t see any opposition to the measure. “They’re worth their weight in gold and it’s something that every police department in the county uses. As far as the state sheriff’s association, probably all of our sheriffs have canines. They’re 100 percent behind this bill,” he said.

Pino hopes the bill becomes a law. “At any given time these animals can make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the public and the handlers that they serve, and we owe it to them to have legislation in place that protects them too,” he said.

The full Assembly unanimously voted in favor of Dano’s Law. It’s expected to also get bipartisan support when the Senate considers it.

Desiree Taylor reports from Somerville.