Backing the blue: FL governor signs bill allowing K9s to be transported and treated by paramedics

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FLORIDA – A new law that was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier in June, that goes into effect this July, will allow paramedics to treat and transport police K9s that get injured in the line of duty.

This signed legislation comes at a time when other states have been reviewing similar laws, as we’ve previously reported here at Law Enforcement Today.

On June 18th, Governor DeSantis signed into law SB 388, which the bill summary reads as follows: 

“Injured Police Canines; Authorizing licensed life support services to transport injured police canines under certain circumstances; authorizing a paramedic or an emergency medical technician to provide emergency medical care to injured police canines under certain circumstances; providing for immunity from criminal and civil liability under certain circumstances, etc.”

Governor DeSantis stated the following when signing the bill into law: 

“Law enforcement K-9s are often the first to put their lives on the line as they work to apprehend dangerous or armed suspects in high-intensity situations.”

“I’m proud to sign this legislation today to ensure they quickly receive the care needed to recover.”

Haines City Police Officer Ryon Green, who is the handler of K9 Machado, was particularly pleased with the new law coming to fruition, noting how this law ensures K9s injured in the line of duty receive prompter care: 

“It allows them to start getting treatment like right away. They possibly could have bled out before by trying to drive 15-to-20 minutes to a 24-hour vet.”

As mentioned earlier, other states have been reviewing similar legislation much like the one passed in Florida earlier in June. 

A bill drafted in Massachusetts, that we at Law Enforcement Today reported on back in April, seeks to have a similar practice brought into the fold of policing when K9s are injured while on-duty

The bill in question is S.1431, also known as “Nero’s Law,” which was reportedly introduced by Massachusetts Representative Steven Xiarhos.

The name “Nero’s Law” comes from a police K9 bearing the same namesake, who was seriously injured in a 2018 incident where K9 Nero survived, but his handler Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon did not.

If this legislation were to come to fruition, it would afford what is described as “humane transportation of K9 partners,” by way of EMS first responders. Effectively, this bill, if passed, could enable expedited transport to needed veterinary services for K9s injured on duty.

Reportedly service dogs, accelerant-detection dogs and search-and-rescue dogs will also be included in the bill’s coverage.

K9s that wind up falling under EMS care following an incident would allow EMS responders the authority to perform life-saving measures like “opening and manually maintaining an airway,” “giving mouth-to-snout or mouth-to-barrier ventilation,” “administering oxygen” and “immobilizing fractures.”

The bill further notes that “an EMS provider may require a member of the law enforcement Department or agency accompany the police dog during transport.”

The MSPCA, which is an organization that promotes the ethical treatment of animals and things of that nature, made mention of the incident with which this bill is inspired by:

 “The town of Yarmouth suffered an incredible tragedy in April of 2018 when Sergeant Sean Gannon was killed in the line of duty. Also injured in this vicious attack was Gannon’s canine partner, Nero.”

“Nero suffered life-threatening injuries and was unable to be rescued due to existing state law that prohibits working animals from being treated or transported by emergency personnel.”

“Instead, Nero had to wait nearly four hours before a retired K9 police officer could arrive on scene to retrieve Nero and help with his injuries before he was driven to the emergency veterinary hospital.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Xiarhos happened to have been Sergeant Gannon’s deputy police chief during the date of the incident where Sergeant Gannon was killed and K9 Nero was injured.

On April 12th, Rep. Xiarhos called for the bill to be passed in light of the third anniversary of Sergeant Gannon’s death:

“I will never forget the sight of K9 Nero covered in blood and fighting for his life after being rescued by the brave police officers on that horrible day.”

“K9 Nero never gave up trying to protect his fallen hero. Now it is time for us to fight for him and all the devoted police dogs across our Commonwealth who serve and protect their handlers and all of us, now and for generations to come.”

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The recent passing of the aforementioned legislation in Florida comes days after an incident in Haines City where a police K9 and his handler was nearly run over – with the suspects later allegedly breaking into the mayor’s home. 

We at Law Enforcement Today reported on that incident earlier in June. Here’s that previous report. 

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Investigators say the incident started at approximately 2 a.m. on Monday when Officer William Tucker came upon a 2003 blue Toyota parked at a construction site.

When the driver of the vehicle, 31-year-old Matthew Swett noticed officer Tucker with his patrol car lights on, he allegedly ran back to his vehicle and drove directly at the patrol car, causing front end damage before fleeing the scene.  

According to reports, K9 Officer Joseph Elam and his partner Cash chased after the vehicle, and were able to locate Swett as he exited onto Old Polk City Road. After a short pursuit, police said the car ran into a ditch and stopped.

Officer Elam reportedly released K9 Cash and began giving the occupants of the vehicle commands after he heard Swett’s car door open, which were ignored police said. 

Fox13 reported that Swett then put his car in reverse and intentionally drove toward the officer and the K9, striking Cash. Officer Elam, seeing what was about to happen, managed to use the leash to pull Cash away from the accelerating vehicle and into his arms.

The officer then ran with the dog to avoid being run over by the suspect. Police said the dog was not injured.

Investigators said Swett continued reversing backward and struck Elam’s patrol vehicle again, causing more damage before once again fleeing. 

Swett crashed his car in the area of Prado Grande Avenue and Old Polk City Road. Police stated that Swett and his passenger, 32-year-old passenger Kaila Ellig then exited the vehicle and ran into a wooded area.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Osceola County Sheriff’s Office assisted with locating the the suspects by providing air support and implementing a perimeter around the area.

Police said Swett and Ellig climbed over a fence in the Randa Ridge subdivision and cut a hole in a screened-in porch of a home belonging to Haines City Mayor Morris West.

Mayor West said:

“I observed several officers getting out of their vehicle and running down the side of my front yard,” 

He went on to say:

“A few minutes later I heard a lot of officers and a lot of commotion in the back of my residence.”

The Osceola County Sheriff’s aviation officers were able to see Swett had a concealed object in the front of his pants, and notified officers and deputies on the ground. 

Fox 13 reported that officer Justin Vasquez, Officer Elam and his K9 partner Cash were first to respond and ordered Swett to surrender, but said he refused, continually reaching into his waistband and ignoring commands to exit with his hands up.

Officer Elam once again released K9 Cash, and directed him to apprehend Swett. K9 Cash reportedly bit Swett on the leg, which allowed officers to successfully take him into custody without further incident. 

Mayor West explained:

“I’m glad they were able to apprehend them before I was able to because I’m a licensed concealed weapon carrier and if one them moved inside of my residence I probably would have taken more action,” 

After his arrest, officers found a large-blade knife in the waistband of Swett’s pants. Investigators also found prescription drugs in Swett’s possession, for which he had no prescription.

Police said Ellig cooperated and was arrested without further incident.

Swett was transported to the hospital for treatment of the dog bite, then released and taken to the Polk County jail.

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