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Senate boosts penalties for harming police K-9s, horses

Fernandina Beach senator says bill in response to death of Jacksonville K-9 Fang

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – People who injure or kill dogs or horses that work with police officers and other first responders would face stiffer penalties, under a measure unanimously approved Wednesday by the Florida Senate.

Sponsor Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said the bill (SB 96) is in response to the death of K-9 Fang, a 3-year-old member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office canine unit shot and killed last September by a teenager fleeing after carjacking two women at a gas station. Bean said Fang “was executed.” He said his bill was prompted by an I-TEAM investigation into the maximum penalties for those who harm K-9s.

The House version (HB 67) awaits a floor vote, after cruising through committees without any objection. The proposal would make it a second-degree felony, up from a third-degree felony, for people who kill or cause great bodily harm to police, fire or search-and-rescue dogs or police horses.

The change would boost the amount of potential prison time from five years to 15 years. In 2017, 140 police departments and 65 sheriff’s offices in Florida used specially trained dogs for purposes such as tracking criminal suspects and detecting drugs and bombs. Fire departments also use dogs for arson detection.

Incidents involving injuries or deaths to horses are less frequent, as mounted police units are most commonly used for non-criminal situations. But a Senate staff analysis noted that a reveler who had been drinking in 2016 at the Gasparilla parade in Tampa punched a 19-year-old horse named Chad.