Tennessee lawmakers debate bill to increase penalties for shooting a police dog

GOP lawmakers in Tennessee are engaged in an ongoing debate over the details of a new bill that seeks to increase criminal penalties for the shooting of K-9 officers, or police dogs.

HB1646 was introduced last year by Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) after Joker, a Bradley County Sheriff’s Office K-9 was shot during a chase involving an alleged car theft. The canine officer has received surgery and is now back to work, but lawmakers in the state would like to see some changes to the way these cases are handled. 

The bill increases the penalty for injuring or killing a service animal from one to two years in prison, and a $3,000 fine for a first-time offender, and up to 8 to 12 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

A critic of the bill, Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) voiced his concern to the House Criminal Justice Committee last week that the new bill may end up punishing an individual more harshly for the shooting of a service animal than for shooting its human handler.

“I have several problems with that,” Hulsey said. “I just wish we would keep it in the lanes that it’s always been in, that it is property and the value on it and let that be what the penalty is because you’re going to get close.”

Some state residents echo Hulsey’s concerns, saying the bill goes too far. “I would name it the Gladiator Law,” said Hamilton County resident Phil Spencer to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “I think that’s a little bit more appropriate. You know, back in Roman days, they’d put you out in the Colosseum and turn the lions loose.”




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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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