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'Rocco’s Law' Moves Forward in Harrisburg

Six weeks after the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police said goodbye to K-9 officer Rocco, legislation is advancing through the Pennsylvania House that would strengthen the punishment for those who harm a police dog.

Rocco’s Law, sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny/Washington), would make injuring or killing a police dog a felony of the second degree carrying a maximum fine of $25,000 and 10 years in prison. This includes mutilating, disabling or poisoning a K-9 officer.

The legislation passed through the House Judiciary Committee unanimously last week. The full House is expected to consider the bill this week.

“I’m delighted that my legislation is moving forward to end this and provide the right, tough penalties for killing a police dog,” Maher said.

Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, was stabbed on Jan. 28 while helping to apprehend a suspect. The city rallied around Rocco’s partner, Officer Phil Lerza.

Maher said Rocco’s death “pointed out a gap in Pennsylvania law which oddly treats killing a police dog exactly the same as simply taunting one.”

The death of Rocco grabbed the attention of the entire community.

“People understood how these K-9 officers become so much a member of the family,” Maher said. “They’re loved not just by their partners, but by the community in general. The loss touched a lot of people in Pittsburgh and pointed out the need to change the law.”

Maher’s legislation has garnered support from the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police. 

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