Richland County Sheriff’s Department deputy Warren Cavanagh says the only reason he is alive today is his former partner and best friend, Fargo.
Fargo – a Sheriff’s Department Belgian Malinois police dog – was killed in action on Dec. 16, 2011, during an armed robbery in north Columbia.
Fargo’s shooter, Maurice Antwon McCreary, was sentenced to 35 years in prison – 30 years for attempting to kill Cavanagh and other officers, and another five for killing Fargo.
But, Cavanagh told S.C. House members Thursday, that five years was not enough.
Cavanagh and other S.C. law enforcement officers want the House to pass a state Senate-backed bill – called Hyco’s Law – that increases the maximum penalty for hurting or killing a police animal to 10 years in prison and the maximum fine to $10,000 from $5,000. The bill is named after an Anderson County Sheriff’s Department police dog killed in October 2015.
Violators also would be required to pay restitution to cover the cost of rehabilitating or replacing the animal injured or killed, and could be ordered to complete up to 500 hours of community service for an animal-related organization or foundation.
State Rep. Neal Collins, R-Pickens, said it can cost police agencies about $9,000 to buy a K-9 dog and up to about $100,000 for training and care.
A House panel voted for the bill Thursday, adding Fargo’s name to its title. The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. If it passes there, it will go to the House for vote.
At least three police dogs have been killed in the line of duty since December 2011 in South Carolina, including Fargo and Hyco. The third dog killed, Nash, worked for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Nationally, about 10 police dogs were killed in action in 2016. No numbers are available for 2017.
Rep. Collins said state law needs to be toughened before lawmakers have to add the name of another police dog to the bill.
“(There’s a) running joke that we’re with the dogs more than we’re with our families because, when we’re in the car, they’re with us,” Cavanagh said. “When they’re with us and we’re out there, our families know that there’s a better chance because of that dog that we’re coming home.”