NASHVILLE (WKRN) – While police officers have dangerous jobs, their K-9 partners are even more vulnerable.
Currently, anyone accused of killing a police dog or horse in the line of duty is only charged with theft in Tennessee.
Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) has sponsored a bill that would make it at least a Class E felony to knowingly kill a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog or police horse.
“It’s very important that we make sure that killing one of these law enforcement officers, even if it is a canine, that it’s not graded just like stealing a cell phone,” said Durham. “I don’t think that’s very appropriate.”
House Bill 1291, also known as Aron’s Law, named after a Metro Police Department dog was killed in the line of duty nearly 17 years ago.
On May 14, 1998, Aron and his handler, Terry Burnett, were fired upon by a bank robber in Nashville.
Aron was shot once in the chest and twice in the neck. He later died at the vet.
His partner, Officer Burnett was shot in the foot.
Burnett, still a Metro police K-9 officer, supports the bill.
“To us, these dogs are not property,” Burnett said. “They are police officers just like we are. We owe it to them. They can’t pass the law themselves, but we can. And we owe it to them to try to make things better for them.”
HB 1291 has cleared one committee and will go to the House Agriculture Committee next week. It could go to the House floor by March 30.