New law will help care for retired police dogs in Florida

Gov. DeSantis holds a news conference in Bunnell, Florida to sign SB 266, supporting K9s medical expenses after they retire. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

BUNNELL, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to help pay for the medical and veterinary costs for retired police dogs on Friday morning.

Under Senate Bill 226, the Care for Retired Dogs program allows caregivers for retired K9s to be reimbursed up to $1,500 dollars each year for the dogs’ veterinary expenses.

“We recognize that our law enforcement community must include recognition for our four-legged friends, and we’re doing that here today,” Gov. DeSantis said. “A lot of times only the handler will be able to adopt whenever [a K9] retires because they don’t want to go anywhere else. They want to be around that handler. So now, what we’re saying in Florida is we’re going to step up. We’re going to provide support for these K9s.”

Gov. DeSantis called the canines “instrumental” in helping keep communities safe.

The governor said $300,000 was set aside for this program, and the reimbursement money will be administered through Emma Loves K9s. Emma Stanford, a Flagler County teenager, attended the bill signing. She founded the non-profit that raises money for active and retired law-enforcement dogs.

“As soon as I learned about the lack of funding for retired police dogs, I wanted Emma Loves K9s to assist their handlers with food and medical expenses. I wanted to help pass the bill in any way I could. The retired dogs have served our community, and I believe they deserve the best possible care,” Stanford said.

In 2021, Gov. DeSantis signed SB 388 to support canines injured in the line of duty. The bill allowed ambulances and EMTs to transport and care for police canines that have been injured while protecting.

The sheriffs recognized at the event thanked Gov. DeSantis for signing a bill that supports law enforcement and their extended family members.

“Each one of these retired dogs, with no serious medical issues, costs about $3,000,” said Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, “Last year, we implemented supporting our retired canines, but that is the exception, and this bill will correct that and take the burden off the handlers. Not only are they partners for life, but they become family members.”

“Senate Bill 226 not only gives the chance to fund and help our deputy sheriffs as they take care of these retired warriors but also gives them a chance to partner with a not-for-profit,” St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick said.

For a retired service dog to qualify for the program, an owner must show valid documentation of the dog’s retirement from law enforcement and that the dog served for 5 or more years. A dog that has served 3 or more years and was injured in the line of duty then retired is also eligible.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.

As a proud alumnus of Bethune-Cookman University, Kendra is a Jacksonville native, who loves all things lifestyle-related.