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First Responders Could Treat, Transport Injured Police Dogs Under Bill That Passed Unanimous Senate Vote

A police officer and their canine partner are in what looks to be a park. The canine is laying down on a cement pathway with its mouth open and tongue sticking out. The human officer is standing beside the dog with a leash in one hand.
Lisa F. Young
/
Adobe Stock
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians would be authorized to care for and transport injured canine officers under a bill that passed a unanimous vote in the Senate. The House version cleared its last committee stop.

Injured police dogs would get priority medical help if they're injured on the job. That's under a bill approved by the Senate and awaiting a floor vote in the House. The measure would put the canine officers at the front of the line if no one else at the scene needs medical attention or transport.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks officer deaths, 48 Florida K-9s have been killed in the line of duty. Sen. Tom Wright (R-Port Orange) is sponsoring a measure aimed at saving these dogs' lives when they're injured in the line of duty. During a committee meeting on the bill, he asked lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of a police officer with a canine partner.

"Your partner lives with you. It's one of your family, and you're dispatched to a crime scene as the backup. That's what you normally are. You're the backup. The officers are holding whatever's going on under control, and so your dog is the first person in, and your dog is injured by the perpetrator, shot, stabbed, in some way maimed," Wright says.

According to a staff analysis, police dogs are often used to chase after fleeing felons and can be caught in the line of fire while on the job. In 2018, a police canine with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was shot and killed. In 2020, a canine working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives became trapped in a car when it caught on fire. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department saved the dog.

"That decision actually saved that canine's life," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood says.

He supports Wright's bill and says the person who gave the approval to treat and transport the dog faced blowback afterward.

"They were then chastised, 'how dare you use resources for a dog,' and I think that caught the ire of a lot of people saying hold on here this isn't just a dog, you know, this is part of what we do to keep our community safe, this is part of a deputy's family. This animal we invest thousands upon thousands, tens of thousands of dollars on treatment, care, and it deserves these working animals deserve to be treated in the best way possible."

That's one reason Wright's bill has received support from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

"Currently, paramedics and EMTs are not specifically permitted to transport our officer canines that are injured," Moody says.

She also says if a paramedic decides to help an injured canine officer, they could be held liable if something goes wrong. Wright's bill would give paramedics and emergency medical technicians a liability shield if they choose to help an injured canine officer. Moody says last year nationwide, 130 canine officers were injured in the line of duty. Wright's bill comes after the Florida legislature in 2019 passed a bill that increases the penalty for causing harm to a police canine from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.