K-9 teams from Rockland and Westchester police departments gathered at the Clarkstown Police Department Friday to support a bill introduced in the state legislature to update a law impacting police working dogs. The legislation introduced by Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland) would exempt police dogs from confinement and observation when they have bitten an individual in the course of duty.
Flanked byfrom Clarkstown, Ramapo, Suffern, Haverstraw, Greenburgh, White Plains and Yonkers and the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department, Zebrowski described it as a common sense bill. Carlucci noted the police dogs do important work helping to protect people so when they are removed from duty for 10 days it has an effect on public safety.
“These dogs are extraordinary animals,” said Zebrowski.
Carlucci described it as an outdated mandate that he and Zebrowski are trying to bring into the 21st century. The Clarkstown Police Department approached Carlucci earlier this year about the mandate.
“Today we’re talking about a piece of legislation that’s long overdue,” said Carlucci. “Right now when a canine is doing their job going after and apprehending bad guys brining them to justice unfortunately they’re being penalized. Every time the dog one of these canines apprehends a suspect they have to be quarantined for 10 days.”
Under current state law, animals that may have exposed an individual to rabies must be confined for a 10-day confinement and observation period. Law enforcement authorities argue that this burdens departments by subjecting police dogs to an unfair double standard. The change to the law would exempt the K-9 officers that visit veterinarians yearly. Currently, if K-9 officers apprehend and subdue a suspect as they are trained to do, they then are out of commission and taken off duty for 10 days.
Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan said the police dogs serve more as a locator units for finding wandering Alzheimer’s patients, lost children and searching for drugs, bombs or assisting with arson investigations more often than tracking criminal suspects. He said the department’s K-9 units have been involved in seven apprehensions over the past four years. He said biting is a use of force and used as a last resort and only out of necessity.
“Our communities invest a lot in these K-9s and when they do their job and catch a criminal we want them back on the road catching more criminals, enforcing the law and protecting the public not spending 10 days in quarantine,” said Chief Sullivan.