A bill that would make it illegal to threaten an animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency won unanimous support from the state Senate on Thursday.

Vader, one of the dogs after which the bill is named, and his owner, Atlantic City police Sgt. Frank Timek, were guests of honor at the Senate session in Trenton.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, a co-sponsor of the bill, talked about how the highly decorated Vader had been assaulted by suspects during his career.

Vader, 7, is now retired. Timek said during his career Vader was hit, choked, had fingers pointed into his eyes and objects thrown at him.

"Some people just really don't want to go to jail," he said.

After the vote, Timek thanked legislators for their support.

"This sends a message: Hands off our dogs," Timek said. He said the loyalty and devotion of the animals to their owners and jobs make them worthy of the respect offered by the law.

The bill is also expected to be approved by the state Assembly. The bill enhances existing law regarding threats against law enforcement animals.

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