PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. House approved legislation Tuesday that would allow first responders to treat and transport K-9s injured in the line of duty.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Bennett, mimics a Massachusetts law that was introduced in the wake of a 2018 shooting that injured a police dog wounded and killed his handler.

“Police dogs are some of the most loyal, untiring public servants there are,” Bennett 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.

Current state law only allows first responders to treat and transport human patients. The legislation, if passed, would allow paramedics and medical personnel to render first aid to injured police dogs, so long as human patients are prioritized.

The bill would also allow first responders to transport injured K-9s via ambulance to nearby veterinary hospitals for further treatment.

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.

Bennett’s legislation also directs the R.I. Department of Health, in consultation with police, EMTs and veterinarians, to develop procedures for training first responders how to handle and render aid to police dogs, identifying the nearest veterinary hospitals that can accept them and sterilizing ambulances for allergens following the transport of an injured K-9.

“When it does happen, there has to be a plan in place to let the EMTs know that it’s OK to treat that animal, even if it’s simple first aid,” Bennett said.

The bill now heads to the R.I. Senate for consideration.