10/09/2013 06:01 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Costas Menegakis, Tory MP, Says Death Of Toronto Police Horse Inspired Bill

EDMONTON - A federal private member's bill that would give law enforcement animals special protection under the Criminal Code was inspired by the hit-and-run death of a Toronto police horse.

Ontario Conservative MP Costas Menegakis said he was moved by the death of Brigadier, a Belgian cross put down after police said he was deliberately struck by a driver they were trying to pull over in 2006.

When Menegakis was elected to the House of Commons in 2011, he said he set about trying to do more to protect animals that work with police.

His bill gained traction this week with the death of Quanto, an Edmonton police dog stabbed and killed during an arrest.

"It was almost like a no-brainer because it was something that I wanted to do for a long time," the MP said in a phone interview Wednesday. "Little did I know that just a few months after I put my bill in that we would have another tragic incident like this."

The bill, tabled earlier this year, proposes that anyone "who knowingly or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal," including a horse or dog, could be subject to a five-year maximum sentence, the same sentence for animal cruelty.

But the change is more than symbolic, Menegakis said.

"This takes this particular penalty and puts it in the Criminal Code under the police and peacekeeping officers section so it kind of forces the judicial system to apply the law in every case where a service animal is maliciously attacked," Menegakis said.

"When you look at the actual penalties you can apply, you can get carried away on emotion. I would have liked a lot bigger penalties but there is human life and there is animal life, as well. There is a difference. I wanted it to be something that made sense."

The suspect in Brigadier's death was charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

There was a push at that time to get police animals included in the Criminal Code and Edmonton police renewed those efforts this week when officers complained that animal cruelty was the strongest charge they could lay dealing with Quanto's death.

The MP said he is currently looking for another backbencher to carry the bill forward because he was recently named a parliamentary secretary and can no longer table private member's bills.

Still, he said he doesn't expect any opposition and hopes the bill can be passed before the next federal election in 2015.

Alberta's justice minister has said he supports the federal bill and that the province is considering changing the Service Dog Act to include provisions that would punish people who harm the animals.

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