'Nero's Bill' to protect Mass. K-9s moves closer to becoming law
The law would allow first responders to treat wounded K-9s onsite instead of waiting for a veterinarian
By Amy Sokolow
BOSTON — A bill that would allow emergency medical service personnel to treat police dogs injured in the line of duty has cleared a major legislative hurdle, receiving a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and will be headed to the Senate and House for further consideration.
"These K-9s are incredible animals who fearlessly serve alongside the men and women in law enforcement during incredibly dangerous situations. Permitting them to be transported with basic, immediate care is just one way we can honor their contributions across the Commonwealth," said state Sen. Mark Montigny, D- New Bedford, who filed the Senate version of the bill.
The bill was inspired by Sergeant Sean Gannon of New Bedford, who died in 2018 during a shooting at a crime scene. His K-9, Nero, was severely injured in the attack but survived. Although several ambulances and crews were on-site and available to help Nero, they were unable to do so legally. Instead, officers rushed Nero to the animal hospital in the back of a cruiser.
If Nero's Bill were to become law, emergency medical services personnel would be allowed to provide emergency treatment and transport to K-9 officers, including basic first aid, CPR and administration of naloxone, for example.
"I will never forget the sight of K9 Nero being carried up covered in blood and gasping for air," said state Rep. Steven Xiarhos, who filed the House version of the bill, in a testimony this summer. He was a Yarmouth deputy chief at the time of the incident.
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Nero's veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Smith, previously testified that the care dogs would need would be similar to the care paramedics are already trained to administer and would only need a little training to tend to dogs. He added that the "big three" killers of police dogs, including overheating, gunshot wounds and injuries sustained from being hit by a car, are all "super amenable to early intervention you could do in an ambulance," he said.
"First responders are heroes — whether they have two feet or four paws," Xiarhos said. "It is essential that we do all we can to honor their service and protect them. Nero's Bill is one important piece of that process."
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