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Police animals given greater protection by the state

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CANTON — Animals that help enforce the law will now have greater protection under it.

It is now state law that killing a police animal is a felony after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday to increase the punishment against those that take the lives of these four-legged law enforcement officials.

Currently, anyone found guilty of killing a police dog or horse will be charged with a class A misdemeanor. With the signing of Law S1079A, which takes effect on Nov. 1, the killing of police animal while in the line of duty would be charged with a class E felony.

“Police animals go where others will not in order to keep law enforcement officials and all New Yorkers safe from harm and it’s a tragedy when one is killed,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new law will hold the guilty parties accountable and offer better protections for these highly trained animals who are important members of our law enforcement community.”

One of those important members to the law enforcement community in St. Lawrence County is sheriff’s Deputy Hershey, a 6-year-old chocolate Labrador.

Hershey is both partner and friend to Deputy Andrew J. Ashley.

Deputy Ashley will have been with sheriff’s office for 13 years in September, but he said he has always had an interest in working as a K-9 officer.

He got that chance five years ago when Hershey joined the force.

As the lone K-9 officers in the sheriff’s office Deputy Ashley has been working with Hershey since his first day.

“We ride around with each other for 12 hours a shift,” Deputy Ashley said. “He is a partner, just like any human would be.”

But he is more than a partner, he is a tool, Deputy Ashley added.

“K-9s have to have a lot of play and prey, be highly motivated to both work and please their handler,” Deputy Ashley said.

By his side, Hershey was filled with energy pacing around the deputy’s legs, begging to get on the move.

The narcotics detection, tracking, and article searching certified police dog is used primarily for his nose; however, the K-9 team has been on a number of high profile cases from armed robberies to suspects with knives, leaving plenty of opportunity for Deputy Hershey to get seriously injured in the line of duty, Deputy Ashley said.

And during those calls, Hershey wears his Kevlar vest he received in February as a gift from the SUNY Canton’s Criminal Justice Student Association.

But the risk of death on those high profile cases are still there and in the case of Hershey, Deputy Ashley said he would be losing more than a partner, he would be losing a friend.

“We work our 12 hour shift and he comes home with me,” Deputy Ashley said. “When he retires he becomes my pet.”

Prior to this new legislation, Deputy Ashley said he has done a number of presentations on working with a K-9.

“A question most often asked is, ‘if a police dog gets killed in a line of duty, isn’t the same as killing an officer?’ It isn’t,” Deputy Ashley said.

Deputy Ashley said that while it is a misdemeanor to kill a police animal now, by going through the state agriculture and markets law it can be brought up to a felony.

“Now it will be in the penal law,” Deputy Ashley said. “Now there is just another avenue to make the felony arrest under the penal.”

The governor also signed into law a bill that will allow police departments to waive the requirement that a police dog must be confined for 10 days after biting a person while in the course of official duties.

The new law will allow law enforcement to return the dog to duty after receiving a waiver from a local health department as long as the dog has up-to-date rabies vaccinations and will take place immediately.

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