In wake of K-9's duty death, Mass. cops renew calls to pass 'Nero's Law'

The bill would reverse a current law that bars first responders from transporting working animals in most situations


By Joe Difazio
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

BOSTON — After two Braintree police officers were shot and injured in a shoot-out that killed police dog Kitt, officials are calling for the passage of a law that would allow emergency personnel to treat and bring police dogs to an animal hospital.

The bill, dubbed Nero's law, was named after Yarmouth police dog Nero, who was injured when his handler Sgt. Sean Gannon was killed in a 2018 shooting. The bill would reverse a current law that prohibits first responders from treating or transporting working animals in most situations.

Braintree police dog Kitt was shot and killed in an altercation Friday, June 4, 2021.
Braintree police dog Kitt was shot and killed in an altercation Friday, June 4, 2021. (WCVB)

Nero survived, but had to wait for treatment because the EMTs at the scene were not allowed to help. Kitt, a 12-year veteran, was shot and killed while engaging with an armed suspect earlier this month.

The bill was proposed by state Rep. Steven Xiarhos, who was Yarmouth's deputy police chief at the time of Gannon's death.

"The Nero bill is critically important and very personal to me," Xiarhos said in an email. "I personally attended the funeral of K-9 Kitt and saw the pain in the eyes of the police officers that he saved that horrible day back on June 4."

Xiarhos said that he retired to run for office because of Gannon's death. The Yarmouth Republican said the bill has wide bipartisan support and awaiting a hearing date from of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

"These animals deserve to be treated when injured and we must make this a reality," Xiarhos said. "Their lives matter."

Braintree Police Deputy Chief Tim Cohoon called the bill a "no-brainer."

"It's got bipartisan support. It's the least we can do for these animals that give everything for us," Cohoon said. "There's no downside."

Quincy Police Lt. Robert Gillan, who heads his department's K-9 unit, said it's confusing why the law hasn't been passed yet.

"It's kind of amazing, everyone is perplexed why this law hasn't been passed yet," Gillan said.

He said it's a relatively rare event that a police dog needs emergency medical care, but it does happen. Because it happens infrequently, he said it wouldn't be much of a drain for taxpayers.

Marshfield Police Lt. Arthur Shaw said his department "absolutely supports" the bill.

He said that his department bringing on their police dog Beny "was one of the best things the department has done." Shaw said the dog has helped in all kinds of situations and is good for public relations.

A similar bill was introduced by former Cape Cod state Rep. Will Crocker in 2019. Xiarhos's bill was introduced in partnership with state Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat, and has dozens of cosponsors.

Joe Difazio can be reached at jdifazio@patriotledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @jldifazio.

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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Police call for passage of 'Nero's law' in the wake of Braintree K-9 Kitt's death

(c)2021 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

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