K_9 Legislation Saves Canine service dog lives

New legislation could better protect Md. K9s injured in the line of duty

MARYLAND – New legislation could mean the difference between life and death for Maryland K9 officers.

No Clear Guidelines

As it stands right now, if a K9 is hurt while responding to a scene, there aren’t any guidelines for how to give them emergency care. “We would put them in our patrol cars and we get them to the urgent veterinary care as fast as we could,” said DFC Nicole Chaffey with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office.

Peace of Mind

But, Senate Bill 70 creates guidelines for EMS providers to render emergency treatment to K9s injured in the line of duty. “This is my best friend, this is my partner, this is somebody who’s going to go into the thick of things. We’re going to be the first through the door, and he’s going to be right there with me,” said DFC Chaffey. “Now I know that if there’s an incident and a tragedy, they’re going to get the care just like we’re going to get the care.”

Bill sponsor State Senator Mary Beth Carozza says not only will the guidelines save K9 lives, they could also help protect law enforcement officers, too. “In those instances where our police canines are injured in the line of duty, we’ll know that emergency medics can come on the scene, treat the dog, and then transport them safely in an ambulance,” she said. “The proper protocols are in place, but also that liability protection is in place. So, we can allow for that emergency medical care.”

Whittington and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis testified in support of the bill before the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Whittington says the legislation could pave the way to make first responders better prepared for any situation. “Having clear direction and expectations from Maryland Emergency Medical Services, veterinarians, and also the canine handlers allows for us the life-saving care, and the correct care, to the canine unit.”

Four Legs on the Front Lines

K9s are often some of the first to enter an emergency situation or crime scene, according to first responders and law enforcement. That could lead to potentially deadly situations for the K9 and its handler. “They may be put in situations where they may walk over glass or they may be shot or stabbed. They may experience a fentanyl overdose from walking on a drug or anything like that,” said Ryan Whittington with the Ocean City Fire Department.

Sheriff Lewis says the legislation is timely, as K9s getting injured in the line of duty has been a growing concern. “There’s been a major uptick in assaults on law enforcement officers across the country, and our canines. Just last month [in Seattle], we had a police canine – Canine Jedi – that was stabbed to death with a machete,” he said. “To be able to get our four legged partners the assistance they need – that they’ve always needed – is very exciting.”

Confidence in Passage

The bill is now onto its second reading. Sen. Carozza says there may be some future amendments. However, because other states have passed similar laws, she’s confident Governor Larry Hogan will put his pen to this bill, as well. “This bill enjoys strong support across the board. It has the support of law enforcement, it has the support of firefighters, it has the support of veterinarians,” she said.

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Mary Beth Carozza for State Senate