Friday, September 10, 2010

Ordinance now protects police animals

Our Informant newsletter this month features an article about a new city ordinance we're very pleased out. It's aim is to protect police animals from harm. Here's the story:

When a police horse got smacked in the face earlier this summer, there was little officers could do.

Two Mounted Patrol officers were talking to a woman at 39th and Main streets when, with no provocation, she reached up with an open hand and slapped one of the horses. There were no charges the officers could bring that would hold up in court, until now. Working with KCPD, the Kansas City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on August 26 that makes it against the law to abuse or interfere with a police animal.

“Police service animals serve their communities alongside their human partners,” the ordinance resolution states. “They are active members of law enforcement, yet they are treated as simple items of property by the law if maltreated, injured, or killed while performing the tasks required of them.”

Under the new ordinance, anyone who abuses or interferes with a police animal faces penalties of up to a $500 fine and/or 180 days in jail, City Prosecutor Beth Murano said.

Captain Randall Jacobs of the Patrol Support Unit said drunken Westport patrons have thrown bottles at horses and physically struck them in the sides and rear. The strikes weren’t aimed at the officers on the horses but the animals themselves, so the suspects couldn’t be charged with assault on an officer, and their actions didn’t usually rise to the level of animal cruelty charges. Five years ago, a suspect bit a portion of a police dog’s ear so hard the dog required veterinary treatment. All police could do was ask prosecutors to please tack on an animal abuse charge to the other charges the suspect faced.

“There was nothing that really specifically addressed the situation,” Murano said.

Now anyone who mistreats a police horse or dog can be charged with that specific offense in Municipal Court. The ordinance also makes it illegal to release a police animal without its handler. For example, anyone who is not the animal’s handler and lets a police dog out of a car or a police horse out if its trailer faces charges. A suspect also would face charges if he or she taunts or torments a police animal or feeds it without the permission of the handler.

“You can still pet the horses, but this would take care of someone slapping them,” Captain Jacobs said.

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