By Mike Deak
Gov. Chris Christie has signed into law a bill, named after a Somerset County law enforcement legend and a colleague in Atlantic County, that increases the penalties for making threats against law enforcement animals, police K-9s and horses.
”Dano and Vader’s Law” was named after Dano, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, who lives with Capt. Tim Pino, a captain in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office who heads the office’s K-9 unit.
The law was inspired by an incident involving Pino and Dano in 2008.
Dano was threatened during an incident in Hillsborough when local police had stopped a suspected drug dealer and asked for assistance from the Somerset County Sheriff's Office. The suspected dealer's boyfriend then appeared on the scene and tried to distract police by threatening to kill Dano.
After the incident, Pino discovered that under the law, the boyfriend could only be charged with a disorderly person's offense for threatening Dano.
But State. Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16th District) , who also serves as municipal prosecutor in Bridgewater, drafted a law making those threats an indictable offense. a fourth-degree indictable offense. Conviction of a fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both
”Police canines serve valiantly alongside officers, performing critical roles in search and rescue operations, narcotics investigations and explosive detection,” Bateman said in a statement after Christie signed the law. “As they selflessly protect their partner and the public we must ensure threats against these brave animals are taken seriously.”
“Cowardly criminals who threaten the life of a law enforcement animal will now receive the punishment they deserve,” Bateman concluded.