Bill proposed to provide medical service to on-duty animals

Police are praising proposed legislation that would allow emergency medical service workers to treat police canines injured in the line of duty, calling it a common sense move that would save dogs serving the community.

“We owe it to an animal we are pulling into service to do the best we can,” Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson said. “It’s common sense.”

Barnstable Representative William L. Crocker, Jr., is sponsoring a bill that would allow first responders to treat police dogs injured on the job. Right now, Massachusetts laws penalize emergency medical technicians if they assist an animal in an emergency. The proposal prioritizes humans requiring medical attention before animals receive care, and absolves emergency personnel from liability. It also allows for licensed veterinarians to provide written guidelines or provide consultation with EMTs providing animal care, and similarly gives those vets protection from post-incident liability.

Nine other legislators — Representatives Brian Ashe of Hampden, Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, Dylan Fernandes of Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket, Susan Williams Gifford of Plymouth, Hannah Kane of Worcester, David Muradian Jr. of Worcester, Sarah Peake of Barnstable and Timothy Whelan of Barnstable; and Sen. Julian Cyr of Cape & Islands — support the bill.

The proposal comes after Nero, a Yarmouth Police K9, was hospitalized for a week after he was shot in the face in a deadly incident in April. Officer Sean Gannon was slain April 12 while serving a warrant in Marstons Mills. Nero, who has recovered, is with the Gannon family.

As Nero lay by Gannon, a question arose as to whether first responders could help the injured animal.

“We have emergency personnel standing by and we have a police dog wounded. We should do the best we can,” said Frederickson. “This only applies to law enforcement dogs.”

“Right now in Massachusetts, if a police dog is injured he can’t be treated,” said Peter McClelland, a retired Yarmouth K9 officer and Nero’s former handler. “They can’t do anything. This will be a big help.”

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