DIGGING DEEPER: Wisconsin’s K-9 laws, why handlers want tougher penalties for offenders

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MADISON (WKOW) — After two Wisconsin police dogs were severely injured in the line of duty this year, officers who care for them are now talking about how to protect them even more.

Two K-9 were stabbed in just six months. Last week, K-9 Justice was stabbed during a standoff in Waukesha County. In April, K-9 Pyro in Green Bay was stabbed multiple times by a suspect during a weapons complain.

Lacrosse K-9s handler Dan Ulrick said they always do everything they can to keep their dogs safe but now want help from lawmakers.

Ulrick was in town Wednesday for a special K-9 training and certification event happening on the UW-Madison campus.

“If they get hurt in the line of duty by someone who’s trying to hurt them…they should absolutely be held to a higher standard,” said Ulrick.

In Wisconsin, if someone intentionally hurts a police dog they could face a Class I felony. If someone kills a police dog, a Class H felony which is punishable up to six years in prison. Both would face a fine of $10,000. Both classifications are considered the least punishable felonies in Wisconsin.

But proposals pending in Florida, Utah and Oklahoma’s legislature would make penalties even stiffer. Oklahoma would increase the penalty for intentionally injuring K-9’s from a Class D felony to a Class C felony. Maximum penalties for a conviction in Connecticut are 10 years in jail and a fine of $10,000.

“I think one day, especially if it becomes more widespread, I believe there’s definitely a possibility where police would step forward and say we need to we need to do something different here,” said Ulrick.

Police Sergeant Nic Banuelos with the University of Wisconsin-Madison said he would support any additional measures to protect his K-9 Maya and other dogs.

“Anything that will raise the threshold there to hold people accountable for their actions, I’m sure everybody’s on board for that,” said Banuelos.

But they might have to wait longer for changes.

State Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) in 2017 passed legislation to allow K-9 officers to stay in the field after being bit by an animal. Previously, the law required a K-9 officer to receive three check-ups from a veterinarian over the ten-day period following a biting incident.

When asked if he’s considering additional legislation after two police dogs were stabbed, he didn’t think Wisconsin laws needed to be enhanced.

Senator André Jacque (R-DePere) co-sponsor the bill with Cowles. He said he’s open to listening to these officers concerns to possible explore legislation.

“I would be happy to work with law enforcement groups and prosecutors in continuation of my work in support of law enforcement K9s,” said Jacque.

The National Police Dog Association said from 2005-2015 50 people were charged for harming or harassing a K-9 in the United States.

Emilee Fannon

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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