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Colorado bill would make harming, killing law enforcement animals a felony

From Colorado Politics: A police dog waits for his handler to testify at a House Judiciary Committee meeting about HB 1074, which would increase the charges for harming law enforcement animals. 


A bill that increases the penalty for intentionally harming a law enforcement animal from a misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony is moving forward in the Colorado House.

House Bill 1074, sponsored by Reps Ryan Armagost, R- Berthoud, and Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, passed the House Judiciary Committee in a 6-5 vote.

If signed into law, the bill would penalize anyone who "knowingly or recklessly" kills or causes serious harm resulting in the death of a law enforcement animal. A Class 4 felony carries a fine of up to $500,000 and up to six years in prison.

Under current laws, harming a law enforcement animal is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 364 days in prison.

Law enforcement officers from several departments favored the bill, testifying about their strong bond with their canine partners.

Deputy Ronnie Hancock, a K9 handler with the El Paso County Sherriff's Department, lost his police dog, Jinx, in 2022 after he was shot by a suspect in Manitou Springs.

"Without hesitation, Jinx laid down his life so that I, and the three other officers, could go home to our family that night," Hancock said. "In that moment, our agency lost a force multiplier and a protector, and I lost my partner. I can't even begin to tell you about the bond that was shattered that evening. The trust a K9 and its handler build and have with each other is indescribable."

One state resident, Manige Blackburn, testified against the bill.

"Police dogs spend more time training than the officers themselves," she said. "My concern is not with them, but their handlers. Should we really be increasing protections for the police's use of weapons when we have lots of examples of their misuse where police are not held accountable? All the testimony we've heard ignores that policing in the U.S. is at odds with the communities they purport to protect and serve, and there is an astonishing lack of civilian voice and a lot of officers pretending to know what is needed."

Commerce City Officer Gilbert Abdulla, a former K9 handler with the Adams County Sherriff's Department, highlighted police dogs' role as a de-escalation strategy. He recounted a specific incident in which a suspect in a domestic abuse case would not cooperate until a K9 arrived on the scene.

"Immediately the situation was dissolved," Abdulla said. "It's a great example of how these dogs are used as a de-escalation tool. We do not want to hurt people. We use the dog as a last resort to peaceably resolve [situations], so No. 1, citizens don't get hurt, No. 2, suspects don't get hurt, and No. 3, we don't get hurt."

After discussion, Reps Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, proposed an amendment requiring law enforcement officers to intervene and report the incident to their supervisor if they see a colleague improperly using their K9. The amendment was adopted unanimously, along with three other minor amendments.

Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, voted against the bill.

"Animal cruelty is already a crime under Colorado law," he said. "This legislation creates a different standard for aggravated animal cruelty based on the role of the animal, which I personally don't believe should be a factor in determining when animal cruelty has taken place under the law.”

Mabrey also claimed research shows that increasing punishment and severity does little to nothing to prevent crime, noting it only breeds “more imprisonment and punishment.”

“Of course, animal cruelty is wrong. Of course, I want to do everything to prevent it. I just respectfully do not believe this bill will reduce actual instances of animal cruelty,” he said.


LKY: This is a GREAT bill! I knew several Police dogs when I had my Veterinary Practice. They are intelligent, loyal, and very effective. Watch some cop shows! See how easily perps give up and comply when faced with a police dog. The dogs can stop a runner much more quickly and efficiently. They should be highly regarded and protected.

This bill is on the agenda for discussion today. We will try to post an update tomorrow.

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My police K-9 partner Lobo, was shot and killed during a break- in of a sporting goods store. The bad guy was waiting around the corner for the first cop. My police dog rounded the corner and was shot and killed. Lobo saved my life and possible the lives of other officers. Unfortunately, shooting my K-9 partner was classified as a misdemeanor. We were able to charge the suspect with Criminal mischief, felony, because the value of Lobo exceeded $5000. I was a K-9 handler for 13 years and in that time I had one resisting arrest. As one bad guy said, "Police have a conscience, the dog doesn't". Vilifying our police and not supporting them with proper too…

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Update from yesterday: this bill did pass on it's first reading. so it progresses to a second reading...

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