Five years ago, Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon was fatally shot when his team served a search warrant. His K-9 partner, Nero, also sustained life-threatening injuries. At the time, Massachusetts state law prohibited emergency medical services (EMS) from treating animals on the scene or transporting them in ambulances, so the dog’s care was dangerously delayed.
Although Nero survived the gunshot wound to his head, Gannon’s parents and colleagues — including former Yarmouth Deputy Chief Steven Xiarhos, who had become a state representative — pushed to change the state law to better protect police animals as a tribute to Gannon. Under Nero’s Law, EMS now are legally permitted to transport police animals in ambulances as long as no human requires medical attention. Then-Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill in February 2022, but it still hasn’t been fully implemented due to a delay in the required training for EMS professionals.
Maine and Rhode Island lawmakers have adopted similar legislation. Neighboring New Hampshire introduced Max’s Law, in honor of a Portsmouth Police K-9 that died after suffering internal injuries during a training exercise in 2019. The bill’s details basically mirror Nero’s Law. Gannon’s parents joined Manchester and Portsmouth police officers in testifying in support of the bill before the New Hampshire Legislature in early March. Portland, Maine, Police Officer Michelle Cole, who spearheaded the passage of a similar law in her state, also testified.
“Changing this law would bring New Hampshire in line with standard protocols that save the lives of these K-9s that are such a part of the fabric of law enforcement today,” Patrick Gannon, Sean’s father, said.
Several other states have passed laws to extend emergency medical care to animal officers. California, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin all authorize EMS treatment of K-9s at the scene. Mississippi, New York, Illinois and Michigan permit EMS transportation for police animals.
As seen in the April 2023 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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