PITTSBURGH — Money from a memorial fund honoring a slain city police dog will be used to buy 24 protective vests to be worn by other city police dogs.
Nearly $95,000 has been raised for the Officer Rocco K-9 Memorial Fund being run by The Pittsburgh Foundation, a local charity, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported (http://bit.ly/1v6cY1i ).
Separately, area law enforcement officers have raised about $6,000 of the $50,000 they estimate will be needed for a memorial to fallen police dogs.
Rocco died Jan. 30, two days after he was stabbed when a burglary suspect was being arrested. That man faces trial in December on several charges, including taunting a police animal.
Since the dog's death, the state Legislature has stiffened the penalty for those who kill or injure police animals.
Under the old law — which will be used to prosecute John Rush, 22, of Stowe Township, the burglary suspect accused of stabbing Rocco — the maximum penalty was seven years in prison. The new law carries a 10-year maximum penalty.
The city plans to buy the protective vests once six additional K-9 officers complete their training this month, mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said. After that, the city will receive 5 percent of the memorial's fund's value each year, which it can use to buy more vests, or pay for kennel renovations, said Stephanie Higgins, a spokeswoman with The Pittsburgh Foundation.
Meanwhile, the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund is trying to raise the rest of the money for a bronze sculpture to honor Rocco and other dogs that have died. That statue will feature a German shepherd sitting at an officer's feet with the caption, "Ever Watchful."
"We just want to honor them," said Cmdr. Donna Best, of the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office. "Those dogs work for nothing but praise and love."
Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com