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Penalty for harm to police dog

Published (1/28/2011)
By Mike Cook
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With his injured canine partner, Major, lying by his side, Roseville Police Officer John Jorgensen testifies Jan. 27 before the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee in support of a bill that would increase the penalties for injuring public safety dogs. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Major was honored in November for his work with the Roseville Police Deparment.

One day later he nearly died.

The German Shepherd was stabbed Nov. 12 as Roseville police assisted Maplewood officers responding to a break-in.

After finding a suspect, officers heard Major crying in pain. After a couple of minutes of frantic searching the dog was found. He had been stabbed four times. He was rushed to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center for emergency surgery. While Major survived, he did not regain use of his back legs.

The 21-year-old suspect pleaded guilty earlier this month to the stabbing. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February.

“Even though Major’s sitting here next to me today — my family and I are very glad he’s still with us — he essentially killed him as a police dog,” said Officer John Jorgensen, Major’s partner.

Sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), HF141 would increase the penalty for injuring public safety dogs and would impose mandatory restitution on offenders who harm public safety dogs.

Approved Jan. 27 by the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, the bill next goes to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. Its companion, SF121, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

As amended, the bill would extend the current two-year felony for killing a public safety dog to offenses of causing “great bodily harm” to such animals, including those which cause permanent disfigurement of the animal or loss or impairment of a body organ. Mandatory restitution in such cases would be up to $25,000 to help care for the injured animal and the purchase and training of another dog.

It would also extend the gross misdemeanor offense of harming a public safety dog to cases where the dog suffers demonstrable bodily harm. Mandatory restitution could be up to $10,000.

Further, the bill would create a new offense whereby it is a misdemeanor to assault a public safety dog where the animal does not suffer “demonstrable bodily harm.”

Mark Ficcadenti, head trainer with the St. Paul Police Canine Unit, said it costs about $7,500 to acquire a suitable dog for this role, plus the additional training costs.

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