Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed CS/CS/SB 96: Police, Fire, and Search and Rescue Dogs and Police Horses. The bill increases the penalty from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony for intentionally and knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or death to police canines or horses, fire canines, or search and rescue canines.

“Like the officers they serve with, these animals are frequently placed in harm’s way for the safety of our communities and I was proud to sign this bill today that increases the penalty for harming them,” said Governor DeSantis. “These canines and horses play critical roles in law enforcement activities, and for their service, they deserve greater protection under our laws. I thank Senator Bean and Representatives Tomkow and Byrd for their work on this good legislation.”

The Governor was joined at the bill signing ceremony by Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Senator Wilton Simpson, bill sponsors Senator Aaron Bean, Representative Josie Tomkow, Representative Cord Byrd and other members of the Florida Legislature. Also in attendance were law enforcement personnel, including Officer Matt Herrera, whose canine partner Fang was murdered in the line of duty, as well as Debbie Johnson, the founder of K9s United. 

“I was so proud to have been with Governor DeSantis for the signing of this important legislation that recognizes the importance of canines, horses and service animals that save lives, serve bravely and deserve this protection under the law,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “We understand the enormous challenges our members in law enforcement face every day and we are committed to supporting and protecting them in every way we can.”

“Today, we honor a key component of law enforcement, the animals, that truly become part of the law enforcement family,” said Senator Aaron Bean. “With the Governor’s signing of this bill, we are taking steps to make sure that if you harm one of these canines or horses, you will be held accountable for your actions.”

“We are here today to send a strong and clear message that Florida will severely punish, and hold accountable, those who seek to do harm to our canine units and horses,” said Representative Josie Tomkow. “I am honored to be with members of our law enforcement here today, especially Officer Matt Herrera, who lost his canine partner Fang, whose service to our state we will always be grateful for.”

“This bill is personal to me, as my uncle is retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office where Fang served with Officer Herrera,” said Representative Cord Byrd. “What I love about this process is the ability to initiate real change, and we would not be here today without the hard work, care and concern of Debbie for our law enforcement officers and their canines and horses.”

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