Strengthened laws mean more protection for K-9 officers

By Brandi Bailey

July 30, 2013 Updated Jul 31, 2013 at 12:52 AM EDT

Town of Fenton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Killing a police animal, like a K-9, is now a felony in New York state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that makes it a more serious offense.

Each dog, regardless of the agency, represents an officer. K-9s are recognized as staff, just like their human counterparts. And just like police officers, deaths and serious injuries occur on duty.

A new and stricter punishment for crimes against police animals was increased after legislation was signed into law.

"Going from an A misdemeanor to a felony is the right thing to do and stiffening the penalties to hold guilty parties accountable has all of our support and honors fallen police dogs," said Binghamton Police Department K-9 Supervisor and Capt. Christopher Bracco.

The new law was triggered by the death of K-9 Ape.

Ape was an FBI agent killed in Herkimer, N.Y., in March. He was shot by a gunman while on duty.

The new law honors Ape and all other K-9 officers that have been killed, Bracco said.

Many local agencies take Ape's death to heart and know it could happen to any of their partners.

"It was as stark reminder of the dangers that these dogs face as service animals," Bracco said.

In Binghamton, dogs have been poisoned and threatened at gunpoint. The handlers say it's a harsh reality of the job in dealing with criminals.

"There's that 1 percent that are going to take measures into their own hands and this new law, rightfully so, stiffens that penalty," Bracco said.