'Rocco's Law' passes PA House

With lightning speed, the Pennsylvania state House unanimously passed legislation today to increase penalties for harming a police K-9 officer in the line of duty..

The bill would establish a felony offense for killing a law enforcement K-9 like Rocco, the 8-year-old German Shepherd stabbed in the line of duty in Pittsburgh in January..

Rocco was attacked while protecting officers trying to apprehend a suspect. He later died of his injuries. Hundreds of people turned out for his funeral.

“Today’s unanimous vote in the House sends a clear message that such vicious attacks against K-9 officers will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania,” said bill sponsor Rep. John Maher (R., Allegheny).

“Rocco’s life was dedicated to protecting our neighbors. His tragic and senseless death deserves a strong and decisive response and I believe we achieved that today."

Maher went on to say, “These dogs are widely respected for their intelligence and skill in performing specific law enforcement tasks for which they are naturally better equipped than their human counterparts,Tragically, Rocco died at the hands of a suspect he was pursuing.”

Maher’s bill would strengthen Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws, which now apply the same weight to the offense of taunting a police dog as killing one.

Under House Bill 2026 a perpetrator would be charged with a felony of the second degree for the willful or malicious torture of a police dog, or if they mutilate, injure, disable, poison or kill the dog. The crime carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and 10 years in prison.

“Rocco’s Law” will now be considered by the Senate, where similar bills were introduced by lawmakers following Rocco's death.

To see Maher’s remarks following today’s House vote, watch here: