Former police veteran and Massachusetts state representative Steven Xiarhos is pushing for the passage of a bill that would allow EMTs to provide first aid to injured K-9s, and allow them to be transported to a veterinary hospital in an ambulance.
The legislation, dubbed “Nero’s Law,” comes after the three-year anniversary of the murder of police sergeant and K-9 handler Sean Gannon. Nero, his police K-9, was critically wounded but survived.
According to NBC 10, House and Senate versions of the bill were introduced to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on April 12.
The bill is very personal to Xiarhos, who retired from the police department in 2019 and was the deputy chief at the scene when Officer Gannon was fatally shot.
“I filed 25 bills my first month and one of them was the Nero bill,” he said. “It’s very personal to me.”
Gannon, who was 32 at the time and on the force for 8 years, was shot while serving an arrest warrant. His K-9 Nero, a Belgian Malinois, was also shot in the head but miraculously survived.
The K-9 sustained traumatic injuries, with Xiarhos explaining that the bullet hit the dog under the eye, and travelled through his trachea before puncturing his esophagus and landing in his shoulder.
“They don’t know how he lived,” Xiarhos said. “He’s a tough dog.”
According to Xiarhos, Nero was trapped in the house with the suspect for 3 hours while wheezing and swallowing his own blood.
“They found poor Nero in the attic, just bleeding to death,” he said, describing how the dog was hiding in a corner and struggling to breathe.
Due to legal constraints, the paramedics that arrived on the scene were not able to treat the dog at the scene.
Chief Frank Frederickson of the Yarmouth Police Department said that the existing law nearly cost Nero his life, and talked about the benefit of the proposed changes.
“He had to be transported to a veterinarian,” Frederickson said of K-9 Nero. “At that time, the natural assumption was to put him in an ambulance and let paramedics treat him the best way they can. But they realized they couldn’t because of some regulations that don’t allow them to do so or they lose their license. The way the proposed law is crafted, it will address rare situations so there is no jeopardy of anyone losing his or her license.”
According to Xiarhos, the Massachusetts bill, which is not the first of its kind (a similar bill was passed in Rhode Island) had 75 co-sponsors. “There’s no reason that this shouldn’t pass. It’s completely the right thing to do,” he said.
Xiarhos says the bill is a way to honor Sean Gannon, who was ambitious and kind. Speaking of the fallen officer, he said, “He graduated from Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth and when he came to our job, everybody loved him. He was very smart and well-educated. He had great parents and was very religious. Sean became our first-ever narcotics officer.”
Three years after the shooting, Nero has fully recovered and is living with Gannon’s parents, who fully support the bill.
“(It) doesn’t replace Sean, but it helps,” said Frederickson. “This is just another way to help heal everybody.”