‘Rocco’s Law’ Awaits PA Governor’s Signature

From The Tribune-Review by Margaret Harding, June 25, 2014

Legislation named for a slain Pittsburgh police K-9 that toughens the penalty for anyone convicted of hurting a police dog is awaiting the governor’s signature, state legislators said on Wednesday.

Pittsburgh Police provided this photo of K-9 officer Rocco. Police said a suspect stabbed Rocco in the back during an incident Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.

Senate Bill 1261 and House Bill 2026, which make up “Rocco’s Law,” would change the charge against a person convicted of severely injuring or killing a police animal from a third- to a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony carries a fine of $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Current law carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

The House unanimously passed SB 1261 on Tuesday and the Senate passed HB 2026 last week.

“It took bipartisan, bicameral cooperation and coordination to get Rocco’s Law to the governor in just five short months,” said state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, in a statement.

Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, was stabbed while helping Pittsburgh police track a suspect in the basement of a Lawrenceville building on Jan. 28. He died two days later of his wounds.

Police charged John Rush, 21, of Stowe with aggravated assault, abusing a police animal, resisting arrest, cruelty to animals and other crimes. He is being held without bail in the Allegheny County Jail as he awaits trial.

“Rocco’s service to the community continues even after his tragic death by inspiring a fresh look at our anti-cruelty laws,” said state Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, who sponsored the House measure.

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