Killing a police dog could bring stiffer penalties — tougher even than for some criminals who kill humans — under a bill halfway through the Legislature.
The Senate voted 20-6 to pass SB57 and sent it to the House.
Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said several police dogs were killed in Utah in recent years — sometimes saving fellow human officers. Her bill would increase the intentional killing of a canine officer from a third- to a second-degree felony.
A third-degree felony may bring up to five years in prison, while a second-degree felony may carry a sentence of up to 15 years. The possible fine for a third-degree felony is $5,000, while a second-degree felony may carry a $10,000 fine.
“Valuing our police animals’ lives most certainly is valuing our human lives” because “police animals protect the lives of police officers,” Iwamoto said. “Police animals protect our lives. Police animals de-escalate situations. And police animals avert crimes.”
Increase the penalty for deliberately killing a police dog to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. - Read full text
But Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill improperly puts the lives of police dogs above those of some humans.
He said a negligent homicide is only a Class A misdemeanor. It’s a third-degree felony for abuse that causes death, a homicide by assault, or criminal homicide by automobile.
“This bill is saying that death of a police service dog is a higher offense than everything I just mentioned,” he said.
He said it’s not fair to human victims “to say that the dog’s life is worth more than a human’s life. That’s where I just have to draw the line.”
But Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, noted that some second-degree felonies now include theft of items worth more than $5,000, communications fraud for more than that amount and even graffiti causing more than $5,000 in damage.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said police dogs are worth $50,000 — counting the cost of their training — so it’s appropriate to boost the offense of intentionally killing them to a second-degree felony.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, argued the bill does not elevate dogs above humans, in part, because intentional murder of a human police officer could bring the death penalty, and killing a police dog would be only a second-degree felony.