Assembly OKs bill to provide injured police dogs ambulance transport, EMT care
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett and Sen. Stephen R. Archambault to allow police dogs injured in the line of duty to get emergency first aid from EMTs and be transported by ambulance to veterinary hospitals.
The legislation (2022-H 7021A, 2022-S 3019), which now goes to the governor, is based on a Massachusetts law that was introduced in response to the shooting of a police dog in Barnstable, Mass., in 2018. The bill was signed into law there in April.
“Police dogs are some of the most loyal, untiring public servants there are. 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,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
Said Senator Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston), “We hope we never need this bill in Rhode Island, but if we did have a tragedy involving one of our K-9 police dogs, EMTs shouldn’t be legally required to stand by helplessly as the animal suffers. This would give them the opportunity, as long as it wouldn’t be leaving any humans without the care they need, to get the dog to a veterinary hospital for treatment.”
Current law allows EMTs and ambulances to be used only for people.
The bill would allow EMTs to transport police dogs injured on the job to a veterinary hospital and to provide first aid, as long as there are no humans waiting for treatment or transport.
The bill directs the Department of Health, in consultation with police, EMTs and veterinarians, to develop policies and procedures for training EMTs for safe handling and first aid for police dogs, identifying veterinary hospitals that can accept them and sterilizing ambulances for allergens following the transportation of a police dog.
In Massachusetts, the bill is called “Nero’s Law,” after Yarmouth police K-9 Nero, who was shot along with his human partner, Officer Sean Gannon, while serving a warrant. Gannon’s wounds were fatal, and Nero nearly bled to death while holed up for hours with the suspect inside his home. Nero was eventually transported in a police cruiser for treatment because the EMTs on site weren’t legally allowed to treat or transport him. He survived his injuries and now lives in retirement with Gannon’s widow.
The bill is cosponsored by House Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence), Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), House Floor Manager John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). It is cosponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) in the Senate.