'Rocco's Law' heads to Gov's desk, pet store bill advances in NJ


A bill toughening the penalties for killing a police dog is heading to Gov. Corbett's desk less than six months after the stabbing death of a Pittsburgh K-9 during an altercation with a suspect.

The lead sponsors of two bills that moved quickly through both chambers, call it a win for canine officers and handlers across the commonwealth.

“Rocco’s service to the community continues even after his tragic death by inspiring a fresh look at our anti-cruelty laws,” said Rep.John Maher, (R., Allegheny),

A spokesman for Gov. Corbett - a professed dog lover - said the governor has 10 days to sign the bill but did not indicate his position.

Rocco’s Law (Senate Bill 1261 and House Bill 2026) is named after the Pittsburgh canine officer who was stabbed in January while helping police apprehend a suspect. Rocco, seen above, later died from his injuries.

John Lewis Rush, 21, was wanted for violating probation and failing to register as a sex offender.

The bill would take effect 60 days after the governor's signature so it would not change the sentencing for Rush.

Senate Bill 1261 and House Bill 2026 amend Pennsylvania’s Dog Law and Title 18 (crimes code), respectively, to toughen penalties against anyone who severely injures or kills a police animal - including police horses - from a third to a second degree felony. The second degree felony comes with a fine of $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Currently the penalties for severely injuring or killing a police animal are the same as taunting it.

Meanwhile, across the Delaware River, the New Jersey state Senate has passed a bill requiring pet stores post information about where puppies and kittens they sell originate.

Animal welfare advocates are hailing the bill as a way to protect consumers from purchasing sick or genetically defective dogs from puppy mills.

Research by the national leading animal welfare groups indicates that 99 percent of puppies come from puppy mills - commercial breeders that house puppies and their parents in inhumane conditions, putting profit before the health of the animals.

Currently, consumers are allowed access to breeder records only after they purchase a puppy or kitten.

“New Jersey pet store consumers should not be duped into unwittingly supporting the cruel puppy mill industry, or into buying puppies exposed to this unique set of physical and behavioral problems created by this substandard upbringing,” Kathleen Schatzman, New Jersey director for the Humane Society of the United States, told the Newark Star-Ledger.

Under the bill (S1870), a pet store must post the breeder’s name, address, phone number and United States Department of Agriculture license number, as well as information about how to access breeder inspection records on the USDA website. The information also would be required in internet and print ads Pet stores that do not comply would be fined $500 per violation.

An eleventh hour effort by breeders groups and the pet store industry failed to stop the bill's passage.The bill is expected to be voted on by the state House in the fall.

A similar bill was just signed into law in Connecticut.

State House Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D., York) has introduced a similar bill in Pennsylvania but it has yet to move out of committee. The New Jersey bill has implications for breeders in Pennsylvania since many New Jersey pet store dogs come from Pennsylvania kennels.

The bill also will prohibit stores from selling from out-of-state breeders who standards of care do not meet those in New Jersey's code and prohibit sales from breeders cited for serious violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.