EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee ceremoniously signed a bill into law Thursday that allows first responders to treat and transport K-9s injured in the line of duty.
Under the new law, paramedics and medical personnel can render first aid to injured police dogs, as long as human patients are prioritized.
The law also allows first responders to transport injured K-9s via ambulance to nearby veterinary hospitals for further treatment.
“Police dogs are some of the most loyal, untiring public servants there are,” state Rep. David Bennett, the bill’s sponsor said. “They protect and serve the public alongside human officers, sometimes at great risk to their own lives and safety. They are also valuable resources, having undergone months or years of training to be able to perform special duties.”
“They absolutely deserve to have all the necessary emergency treatment if they get hurt in the line of duty, and no EMT should have to decline to help them or face any kind of repercussion for helping to save their lives,” he continued.
The governor signed the legislation at Camp Fogarty in front of more than 40 police dogs from numerous police departments across New England.
McKee said he was honored to sign the bill into law.
“Police dogs are often a part of difficult – and occasionally violent – situations, and this legislation ensures that these loyal members of the police departments of Rhode Island are provided with life-saving first aid in the event of a tragedy,” McKee said.
The Rhode Island law requires the state’s Department of Health to develop policies and procedures for EMTs regarding the safe handling of injured police dogs, identifying veterinary hospitals that can treat them and how to properly sanitize ambulances for allergens following transport.
“Not all heroes walk on two feet and I am glad that our heroic police K-9s will now be able to receive the care that they deserve if they are injured in the line of duty,” Sen. Leonidas Raptakis said.
The law is similar to one enacted in Massachusetts earlier this year, which was introduced in the wake of a 2018 shooting that injured a police dog wounded and killed his handler.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed “Nero’s Law” back in February. The law is named after K-9 Nero, who was critically injured while serving a warrant with his handler, Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon, four years ago.
Gannon was fatally shot by the suspect, and while Nero survived his injuries, the K-9 nearly bled to death before being transported to a nearby veterinary hospital in a police cruiser.
Nero has since made a full recovery and now lives in retirement with the Gannon family. The man who killed Gannon, Thomas Latanowich, was later found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The Massachusetts State Police was the first department to utilize the new law back in July, when a K-9 was shot by an armed fugitive. K-9 Frankie, who unfortunately succumbed to his injuries, was the first to be transported by ambulance to a nearby veterinary hospital.