An S.C. Senate panel on Thursday approved increasing penalties for hurting police dogs or horses.
Another vote, tentatively for next week, could send Hyco’s Law to the Senate floor.
Named after an Anderson County Sheriff’s Department police dog killed in the line of duty, the bill would increase the maximum prison sentence for hurting or killing police animals to 10 years from five and the maximum fine to $10,000 from $5,000.
Convicted offenders also would be required to pay restitution to cover the cost of rehabilitating or replacing the animal and complete up to 500 hours of community service for an animal-related organization or foundation.
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The bill would help deter suspects from harming police animals, which are expensive to train and hard to replace, former State Law Enforcement Division chief Robert Stewart told the Senate panel Thursday.
“These dogs are so extremely valuable in saving lives, from finding lost persons to helping arrest violent criminals and protecting officers,” Stewart said.
About 10 police dogs across the country were killed in action last year, Stewart said.
At least three S.C. police dogs, including one in Richland County, have been killed in action since December 2011.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Fargo was killed by a robbery suspect fleeing from officers in December 2011.
Nash, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives K-9, was killed during a December 2012 shootout in Berea.
Hyco was shot and killed in October 2015 while chasing down a suspect, prompting nearly 28,000 people to sign a petition asking lawmakers for stricter penalties.
“When you really get a good one, you’ve really got something,” Stewart said. “To lose it, it’s awfully hard to replace and build back up to that level. We need to do everything we can to deter people hurting and killing these animals.”