An Act Providing for the Care and Transportation of Police Dogs Injured in the Line of Duty, also known as “Nero’s Bill,” was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
The bill was filed by 2nd Barnstable State Representative Will Crocker (R-Centerville) after the tragic shooting last year that killed Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon and wounded his K9 partner Nero.
Under current law, Nero was unable to receive immediate treatment by first responders or be transported by ambulance.
Crocker filed the legislation at the request of first responders who felt helpless in the situation.
“Many of them are trained to be able to take care of animals, specifically police dogs, but they were not allowed to be able to No 1: stabilize the animal, and No. 2: transport the animal,” Crocker said.
Crocker said he is proud and honored to work on the legislation.
“Hopefully, it will bring Massachusetts in line with about a half-dozen of other states in the country that allow emergency medical services personnel to be able to treat canine officers who are wounded in the line of duty,” Crocker said.
Dr. Kevin Smith, a veterinarian with Hyannis Animal Hospital in West Yarmouth, helped craft the language in the bill which was taken from similar laws in five other states.
“The vets have been very positive in this,” Croker said.
Smith, who also works with the regional SWAT team, said they were going to train new SWAT medics on how to treat injured canines but were told by state officials that it was prohibited under current law.
“Shortly after that Sean was shot and Nero was shot, and we had Nero put in the back of a police car instead of an ambulance,” Smith said.
Smith said the treatment for canines is very similar to how first responders care for injured people.
“The biggest difference between a police dog and a person is that police dog might bite you,” Smith said. “So you do have to have some training in dog handling.”
The current law also raises concerns about having the animals in ambulances and the spread of diseases.
“Dogs don’t carry HIV. They don’t carry Hepatitis,” Smith said. “You are a lot more likely to get sick from another person than you are a dog.”
Smith said the legislation is important because, just like with humans, the treatment in the first hour of injuries can be the difference between life and death.
“They will survive if they are treated in that golden hour, and a lot of them won’t if they are not,” Smith said.
Crocker said the bill has a lot of support from the Cape and Islands legislative delegation, and other state representatives and state senators.
“This is something that we just need to fix,” Crocker said.
Nero has recovered from his injuries and has retired from active duty.