Kansas is one step away from harsher penalties for those who kill law enforcement animals

Kansas could soon have harsher penalties for anyone who kills a police animal after lawmakers voted Tuesday on a bill that was introduced after a wanted man ran from police and hid in a storm drain where he then strangled Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy Bane.

Bane, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, died at the scene of the Nov. 16 police standoff in southeast Wichita.

The state House approved HB 2583 115-6 on Tuesday. It is now up to Gov. Laura Kelly to sign or veto the bill.

The current punishment for killing or harming a police dog ranges from 30 days or up to a year in prison and a fine between $500 to $5,000.

If the measure passes, a first-time offender who disables or kills a police horse or dog, an arson dog, game warden’s dog or a search-and-rescue dog could see a prison sentence of 38-43 months; it’s between 55-61 months if the animal is killed while the suspect is trying to elude police.

Additionally, they would face a minimum of a $10,000 fine and possible restitution.

Kansas Speaker of the House Rep. Daniel Hawkins (R-Wichita) and Rep. Stephen Owens (R-Hesston) introduced the legislation. Hawkins commended Tuesday’s vote in honor of K-9 Bane.

“When I learned of the penalties for harming or killing a police dog were so minimal, I knew we needed to do better for these heroic animals,” Hawkins said in a statement to The Eagle. “Police service dogs, like K-9 Bane, are members of the police department and truly serve as a partner to their officer/handler.”

In November, Bane died after he and a Wichita Police Department K-9 were both released on extended leashes into the storm drain for a then 24-year-old Wichita man wanted in connection with a robbery and domestic violence battery.

A camera was also used. The other K-9 wasn’t injured.

The incident lasted more than 2.5 hours before police talked the man into surrendering.

Hawkins added: “I’m proud to have been a part of making this important law a reality to protect the law enforcement animals who serve Kansans every day.”

Opponents of this type of legislation have questioned how police dogs have been used, saying the animals have been directed to go after people who have surrendered. The history of police dogs includes being used to attack people of color during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Keisha James, a staff attorney for the National Lawyers Guild’s National Police Accountability Project, said police dogs have jaws strong enough to puncture sheet metal. “Victims of attacks by police dogs have sustained serious and even fatal injuries,” James said in a written statement to a Senate committee last month. “It follows that an individual being attacked by a police dog would respond by trying to defend themselves.”