ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Law enforcement K9s injured in the line of duty in Florida can receive emergency treatment at the scene and can be transported by emergency vehicles, thanks to a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The proposal (SB 388) makes paramedics and emergency medical technicians immune from criminal and civil liabilities when treating an injured police K9.
“I think this is something that’s overdue. I think it will end up potentially saving the lives of some of our K9s, and I know that that’s something that many of us would like to see,” DeSantis said during a news conference Friday at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick said the bill underscores the importance of the relationship between officers and their K9 partners.
“They’re not just K9s. These are deputies, these are firefighters, these are investigators,” Hardwick said. “It’s just so important that we recognize that they are a part of this profession and this family. And they serve this community.”
The bill authorizes emergency service vehicles, such as ambulances, to transport police K9s to a veterinary clinic if there is no individual requiring medical attention or transport at that time. The bill also allows EMTs and paramedics to provide emergency care to police K9s at the scene of an emergency and/or while the K9 is being transported.
Debbie Johnson, founder of K9s United, pointed to a case in Jacksonville as an example of why this is so important.
In March 2020, K9 Bane became trapped in his handler’s car after it caught fire, shorting the electronics and preventing the handler from getting the doors open.
The handler, ATF Special Agent Brian Schiffer, and others at the scene broke the SUV’s windows and used fire extinguishers to keep the fire off Bane until Jacksonville Fire Rescue personnel arrived with the jaws of life and were able to get him out.
Johnson said Bane was unconscious and had to be treated with oxygen and an IV at the scene, and the JFRD captain made the call to transport Bane to an emergency vet, saving his life.
“I absolutely believe them treating him and transporting him absolutely saved his life. Without a doubt. I’m very thankful for them for doing what they did,” Schiffer told News4Jax after Friday’s news conference.
Bane, now 6 years old and still working for ATF in Jacksonville, made a full recovery after being treated for smoke inhalation.
“Unfortunately, this is not a common occurrence as K9s are not allowed to be transported in this manner,” Johnson said.
She thanked DeSantis and the lawmakers who sponsored the bill for changing that in Florida.
“I think this will help all the dogs. Any dog that gets injured in the line of duty. And I was surprised to hear too-- that there are a few states that have passed similar legislation. I’m just glad to see Florida has jumped on board to do the same thing,” Schiffer said.
In 2019, DeSantis signed into law a measure that increased penalties for killing or causing great bodily harm to police, fire or search-and-rescue dogs or police horses. The change boosted the amount of potential prison time from five years to 15 years and was dubbed the K-9 Fang bill, in honor of a fallen Jacksonville police dog.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.