Massachusetts passes law allowing K9 police dogs to receive emergency medical care

K9 police dogs are an invaluable part of any police department. They perform many crucial task that only a dog could do, like tracking people by scent or taking down fleeing suspects.

Like their human counterparts, these dogs put their lives and safety at risk while on duty, but unfortunately they can’t always get the emergency care they need due to local laws.

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But one state recently passed a new law changing the rules so injured police dogs can get the emergency care they need as soon as possible — a law named after a K9 who was injured in the line of duty.

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts signed a bill known as “Nero’s Law,” enacting it into state law, according to MassLive.

The measure allows for police dogs injured in the line of duty to be treated and transported by medical personnel, which was previously not allowed.

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Posted by Yarmouth Police Dept. on Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The need for such a law became apparent after an incident in 2018, involving the law’s namesake: a K9 named Nero, from the Yarmouth Police Department, who was injured in the line of duty.

In April 2018, Nero and his handler Officer Sean Gannon were serving a warrant — which took a dire turn when the suspect opened fire on both of them in the home’s attic.

Tragically, Officer Gannon was killed. Nero survived but was shot through his left cheek, with the bullet landing by his right shoulder, according to the Cape Cod Times.

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Posted by Cranford Police Department on Thursday, April 12, 2018

Assistant Deputy Superintendent Brendan Murphy recalled finding Nero in the attic, in uncertain condition and covered in blood, but grateful to be saved:

“I called his name, and he started wagging his tail,” Murphy said in a testimony. “He was happy to get out of there.”

Dr. Kelsey McKenna, who treated Nero, testified that he was in “shock and pain” and had extensive tissue damage.

But despite his severe injuries, Nero couldn’t receive emergency care on the scene or be transported by ambulance, due to state rules, according to the Times. Officers had to drive him to the vet in a police cruiser.

K9 Nero Goes Home

Posted by Yarmouth Police Dept. on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nero survived, and later retired from the Yarmouth Police Department. But it’s easy to imagine how things could’ve taken an even more tragic turn, if Nero hadn’t been able to get needed medical care as soon as possible.

The incident inspired a push for a law that would allow K9 dogs injured in the line of duty. State Rep. Steven Xiarhos, R-Barnstable, who was Deputy Chief of Police for the Yarmouth Police Department during the shooting, sponsored the bill and named it after Nero.

K9 NERO K9 Nero remains alive and we continue to pray for his full recovery as he overcomes a gunshot wound suffered…

Posted by Yarmouth Police Dept. on Friday, April 13, 2018

The law passed in the Massachusetts House and in the Senate, where it was sponsored by Sen. Mark Montigny.

Finally, it made it to the governor’s desk, and was signed into law, ensuring that Massachusetts’ police dogs will be able to get the care they need ASAP.

According to MassLive, Rep. Xiarhos celebrated the news, saying “WE DID IT!!” and announcing he would celebrate the law’s passage in a ceremony in the near future.

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Posted by Yarmouth Police Dept. on Friday, June 22, 2018

And vets agreed that the law was a much-needed step in the right direction to get K9 dogs the help they rightfully deserve.

“These are working animals, animals that are often times put into harm’s way, you know, instead of humans, and so it only seems fair and ethical that they would receive emergency treatment for injuries they could sustain in the roles that they have,”  Dr. Tom Burns, hospital director at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod, told the Cape Cod Times.

We’re so glad “Nero’s Law” has gone into law, ensuring that Massachusetts’ K9s will be able to get the help they need.

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