Nearly a month after the death of the beloved Pittsburgh Police K-9 Officer Rocco, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would ensure justice being served to those who willingly attack a police animal. The new law would be named after the 8-year-old German Shepherd, who was viciously stabbed in the line of duty while assisting human officers and his handler in the apprehension of a fugitive in Lawrenceville. Rocco unfortunately died two days after the altercation.
Currently, under Pennsylvania law, the penalty for harassing or taunting a police animal is the same as the penalty for torturing or killing a police animal – a felony of the third degree - which brings a fine of up to $15,000 and between 3 ½ to seven years in prison.
Feeling that the current penalty for killing a police animal is not strong enough, both the House and Senate have introduced companion legislation that would recognize the fundamental differences in these acts by increasing the penalty for such a crime. In particular, House Bill 2026 (HB 2026) and Senate Bill 1260 (SB 1260) will allow prosecutors to charge anyone who willfully or maliciously tortures a police animal, or mutilates, injures, disables, poisons or kills the animal with a second degree felony. This charge carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and 10 years in prison.
Furthermore, upgrading the penalty to a second degree felony will bring the Commonwealth’s law more in line with federal law, which carries up to a 10 year prison term for killing a federal law enforcement police animal. The penalty for harassing or taunting will remain a felony of the third degree in Pennsylvania.
Police dogs would not be the only animals covered under the act. Rocco’s Law would also apply to other animals like horses used by mounted police units.
SB 1260 is being sponsored by all of the state senators representing Allegheny County, myself included. Supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Senate is expected to pass either of these companion bills quickly. However, in order for SB 1260 or HB 2026 to be signed into law, they would need to pass both chambers by the end of October.
John Rush is currently being held without bail in the Allegheny County jail as he awaits trial after being accused of attacking Rocco. Even if HB 2026 or SB 1260 is signed into law, Rush could not be charged with a second degree felony for his actions because its provisions would take effect after the crime took place.
Rocco is truly hero and possibly prevented a more tragic outcome for the Pittsburgh Police unit. Although we cannot get back the life lost of our loyal friend, I hope that passage of this law will honor Rocco and all police animals that have served or died in the line of duty. I also hope that the increase in the penalty and the possibility of the weight of the law would deter any future acts like this against a weaponless police animal.
Shredding Event! – April 5th
Together with Representatives Dan Miller and Dan Deasy, we are hosting a Shredding Event on Saturday, April 5th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Green Tree Park’s lower parking lot, located at 895 Greentree Road. We last hosted this Shredding Event in September where over 21,000 pounds of documents were shredded.
With consumer fraud and identity theft becoming an epidemic in our communities, we are hosting this event not only to raise awareness and promote prevention but also to provide individuals the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge. You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. We will also accept CD’s, credit cards, video tapes and floppy disks.
Mentored Youth Fishing Days Rescheduled
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) has rescheduled its two Mentored Youth Fishing Days into one statewide day to be held on May 10th because most of the waters where the events will be held remain covered in ice and are not expected to thaw in time. The original dates were March 22nd and April 5th.
The Mentored Youth Fishing program was designed to encourage adults to spend a special day taking kids fishing. All of the originally scheduled waters will be available on May 10th. For a full listing of locations for the Mentored Youth Fishing Day, please click here.
To participate in the program, adult anglers (16 years or older) must have a valid fishing license and trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit or a voluntary youth fishing license. Both are available at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the Commonwealth. For more information on the Mentored Youth Fishing program, please visit www.GoneFishingPA.com.
Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is recruiting 4,000 customers to serve as volunteers for the Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel. The Panel is a new and innovative way to enable Turnpike users to provide direct feedback on any number of issues from road quality to overall satisfaction and future initiatives that impact motorists.
The Traveler Advisory Panel research community will be made up of both commercial and passenger customers reflecting the Commission’s customer base across the 550-plus mile system including E-Z Pass users, motorists who prefer to pay cash, and both frequent and occasional users. Participants will contribute to research studies throughout and earn rewards for their time and effort.
For more information the Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel and to learn how to join, please visit www.paturnpike.com/TurnpikeTAP or click here.
Program on Bullying
The Highmark Foundation in conjunction with the Center for Safe Schools and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are presenting a community screening of the film “BULLY.” “BULLY” is a 45-minute film designed to promote awareness about bullying issues. It has been edited and does not include the more controversial material found in the theatrical release. This documentary follows two students and their families over the course of a school year.
Bullying is a widespread problem that includes and affects everyone from victims, perpetrators or silent bystanders. “BULLY” aims to be a catalyst for change in the way we deal with bullying as parents, teachers and society as a whole. Following the film, a facilitated discussion session will be conducted by Pennsylvania Bullying Prevention Trainers/Consultants who can offer additional insights and solutions to this national problem.
This event is scheduled for tomorrow, March 26th from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, located at 118 52nd Street in Lawrenceville. The event is free and open to the public. To register online, please visit www.SafeSchools.info or click here. Walk-ins will be admitted as space allows.
Did You Know…
Did you know that according to the CDC, over 70 percent of students in schools across the country have seen bullying in their schools and that only 20 to 30 percent of students who are bullied notify an adult?
Dog License Poster Contest
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is encouraging students to enter a poster contest to raise awareness about the importance of dog licensing. March is Dog License Awareness Month and this poster contest provides an opportunity for students and their families to become educated about safeguarding their pets.
The deadline to enter the statewide contest is April 30th and the contest is open to all students, grades 1-6, enrolled in public, private or home schools. Students involved with a sponsoring 4-H club or scouting organization may also participate. The poster must reflect the theme “License your dog, it’s his ticket home” and include the website, www.licenseyourdogPA.com. The grand prize will feature a cash prize and a visit by the Secretary of Agriculture and a dog warden during an official poster unveiling at the winner’s school. For more information on the contest, please visit www.licenseyourdogPA.com or call the Dog Law Enforcement Office at 717-787-3062.
State law requires that all dog owners purchase an annual dog license for any dog three months or older. Licenses can be purchased through the Allegheny County Treasurer's Office. An annual dog license is $8.45 and a lifetime license is $51.45. If your dog is spayed or neutered, the annual fee is $6.45 and the lifetime fee is $31.45. Discounts are also available to older adults and people with disabilities.
Open Your Heart to a Senior
Open Your Heart to a Senior, an initiative of the United Way of Allegheny County, is seeking volunteers to assist seniors with light yard work during the spring season. Volunteers are needed in all neighborhoods of Allegheny County to help clear yard debris, plant flowers, and mow lawns. This is a great volunteer opportunity for teens and groups.
OYHS is also training volunteers at a variety of locations around the county. The program’s volunteers help senior citizens live safely and independently in their own homes by providing friendship and time, rides to doctor appointments and to the grocery store, visits and phone calls, or helping with light yard work. The time commitment is flexible and the need is ongoing in every community in Allegheny County.
The first in a series of Volunteer Information and Orientation Sessions for potential volunteers is scheduled for April 2nd at 10 a.m. at The Shepherds Door, located at 563 Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue. For more information on becoming a volunteer or to register as a volunteer for OYHS, please call 412-307-0071 or email Allegheny@openyourhearttoasenior.org.
Congratulations to the girls’ basketball team at Seton-LaSalle High School on winning the state championship in Class AA. On March 21st, the Rebels defeated Neumann-Goretti of Philadelphia 58-50 in the championship game played in Hershey. Seton-La Salle finished the season with a record of 27-4 and also won the W.P.I.A.L. Class AA championship last month.
The Seton-La Salle boys’ team finished a terrific season on Saturday, nearly overcoming a nine-point deficit late in the game, before losing 61-59 in the Class AA state championship game to Constitution High School of Philadelphia. The Rebels won the W.P.I.A.L. championship last month and finished the season with a mark of 29-2. Congratulations on a great season!
March is American Red Cross Month, an annual designation which was first proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. The Red Cross began collecting blood in 1941 and its Blood Donor Service, which ran through the end of World War II, collected 13 million units of blood. Today, the Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, collecting nearly six million units per year.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216