November 12, 2015
Deputy Maria Watts of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office was present at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Oct. 8. She claims Armstrong and other unnamed players “taunted” a 4-year-old German Shepherd police dog. Watts alleges Armstrong yelled, “Hey dog, hey dog” while “barking really loudly” as the players made their way out onto the field.
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Watts continued, “Bandit was very agitated. He wanted me to let him go. I imagine with his training and experience he would have gone to his target who was taunting him. I don’t want to speculate on what he would have done.”
A criminal investigation for barking at a dog? Should members of the public be criminally responsible if law enforcement officials are unable to control their animals?
The law itself is even more quizzical. Pennsylvania law 5511.2, § (a) states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully or maliciously taunt, torment, tease, beat, kick or strike a police animal. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this subsection commits a felony of the third degree.
In Pennsylvania a third degree felony is punishable by a $15,000 fine and 7 years in prison.
While there is no debate that it should be illegal to “beat, kick or strike a police animal,” the law also includes “tease” as an offense equal to physically harming a police animal. Imagine that — teasing is illegal. This literally means if an individual were to say, Hey dog. You look stupid with that collar on, do you know that? or Hey dog. You look pretty fat lately. Have you considered a diet? they would be guilty of a third degree felony according to 5511.2, § (a) which was made law in 1999.
It is highly unlikely that Armstrong will face any legal repercussions or official censure beyond possibly having to issue a hollow ten-second apology. He is, after all, rich and famous — and America’s two-tiered justice system takes care of its celebrities.
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