Anyone who kills or injures a police service animal could face stiffer penalties under new legislation named after an Edmonton police dog that was killed on the job last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday.
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"Today in Parliament we will be tabling Quanto's Law, which will be a law to better protect our service animals and better punish those who do them harm," Harper said while visiting the Edmonton Police Service Canine Unit.
The proposed amendment is meant to protect all animals — primarily dogs and horses — that help in police and military work and assist people with disabilities as service animals.
Under the new law, anyone convicted of killing or injuring a service animal could serve a maximum of five years behind bars. A minimum sentence of six months would be handed down for a conviction if the animal in question was killed.
In some circumstances, the sentence might be added to any other sentence related to the same crime.
Speaking Monday, Harper said the amendment is intended to send a strong message to those who would hurt a service animal, and speaks to the important role they play.
"Service animals are not pets. They are important investments that police services and others make in animals that perform very specialized duties," Harper said.
"Tens of thousands of dollars of training go into animals like this and when they are attacked — as of course the late Quanto was — not only is that a loss of a considerable asset for a police service, it also is of course a wider attack on the police services that protect us."
The prime minister made his announcement alongside Quanto's handler Const. Matt Williamson, who attended the press conference with his new service dog, Ozzie.
Williamson and Ozzie will hit the streets of Edmonton this summer after Ozzie completes his training.
The Edmonton namesake
Quanto died last October after being stabbed repeatedly by a suspect who was fleeing police.
The only charge police could lay against the accused, Paul Vukmanich, in relation to Quanto's death was cruelty to an animal.
Vukmanich, 27, pleaded guilty to that charge and several others in February and was sentenced to two years and two months in prison.
Eighteen months of that sentence related specifically to the animal cruelty charge, which the Crown prosecutor said was the harshest ever imposed.
Speaking Monday afternoon, Staff Sgt. Trevor Hernanutz with EPS thanked the prime minister for his visit, and also commended all Canadians who spoke out after Quanto's death, calling for stronger animal protection laws.
"It's just also nice to know that now we have a law that's going to put some teeth to the matter – that if people want to hurt or injure law enforcement animals – there are some serious legal consequences to their actions and we're proud to see that happen," he said.
"It just brings to light … to the significance and the seriousness those animals put themselves into every day," he added.
"They put themselves in harms way for the handlers and for the citizens of Edmonton and the country."