A State House News Service article written by Katie Lannan on July 18, 2019 shares details of the hearing on Nero's bill that was held at the State House this past Thursday.
Sgt. Sean Gannon’s family cites Nero in call for revamped police K9 law
‘This is something we can fix,’ said Denise Gannon. ‘There are things that happened that can’t change, but we can change this.’
BOSTON — Over the sound of police dogs panting, Denise Gannon asked lawmakers to look at two pictures.
She held up one that showed her son, the late Yarmouth police Sgt. Sean Gannon, and his K9 partner Nero. She said the other, which she passed to a court officer to distribute among Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee members, showed Nero after he was wounded in the 2018 shooting that killed Sgt. Gannon.
Nero had to wait hours to receive emergency veterinary care.
“If Sean would have seen that, as any K9 officer would, he would have been devastated, because they live not only as working partners but as their family members,” Denise Gannon said Thursday. “I would ask each one of you, as members of the committee, who would you leave in your family, in that state, for hours without being attended immediately?
“This is something we can fix,” she said. “There are things that happened that can’t change, but we can change this.”
The Gannon family joined other K9 officers, public safety officials and lawmakers in urging support for “Nero’s bill,” that would allow emergency medical personnel to treat and transport working animals, provided there is not a human in need they must attend to. The legislation is sponsored by Republican Rep. Will Crocker and Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford.
Sgt. Gannon, 32, a New Bedford native and Bishop Stang High School graduate, was killed on April 12, 2018 when he, Nero, and other officers from Barnstable and Yarmouth were serving a warrant in Marstons Mills.
Barnstable Sgt. Troy Perry, supervisor of his department’s K9 unit, said he served as incident commander for all on-scene and canine operations that day, and had to make “the most difficult and unfair decision of my 22-year career” regarding Nero’s treatment.
Perry said he had been informed that Gannon had succumbed to his injuries, and that Nero had been shot in the head while holed up with an armed suspect. Nero was located and rescued in a secondary search, and Perry said there was a “high probability” the dog would not survive the extensive injuries.
After what he described as an “eternity of internal debate,” Perry made the call to load Nero into the cramped backseat of a police cruiser with a doctor and a retired K9 officer, where the two men were able to provide basic treatment while bringing him to an emergency veterinary center in Dennis.
“My decision, or my gamble, was made through the guidance of an outdated and unrealistic law that was almost a no-win situation for all involved,” he said. “Imagine the implications if my gamble did not pay off. Nero would not be here today. Dara, Sean’s wife, and his family, would have lost such a meaningful connection to Sean. The Yarmouth Police Department would have lost a second officer on that day, and our community would have lost a symbol of survival and resilience.”
Montigny said he filed the bill in response to those tragic events in Yarmouth.
“These incredible animals risk their lives to work alongside law enforcement in dangerous situations. It is only humane to allow for them to be transported in a way that reflects their contributions to our Commonwealth,” Montigny said in a statement. He said Gannon “was a native son of New Bedford and therefore his K9 partner Nero is part of our community’s extended family. We hope that this never has to be used, but it demonstrates the respect for the crucial work these animals do.”
Getting shot isn’t the only risk K9 partners face, Montigny’s office said, pointing out that in 2015, at least 36 dogs died from exposure to heroin. Recently, a Boston K9 who encountered chemicals on a call had to be euthanized after exposure and a K9 who searched cruise ship passengers survived an overdose from ecstasy.
With the increase of drugs such as fentanyl and the reliance on working dogs to sniff out drugs, bombs, and other contraband, the risks on the job for K9s have increased. Thus, the need for quick and unencumbered transport can be the difference between a K9 who survives and one who suffers and must be euthanized, his office said.
Montigny’s bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security this morning. The hearing saw overwhelming support from law enforcement, animal advocates, and members of the public.
Montigny said he has asked for the bill to be reported favorably out of committee as soon as possible.