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Tom Wright wants EMS to save police dogs when possible

Bill would allow treatment, transport of wounded K-9

Police dogs wounded or injured in the line of duty could be given rides to a veterinary emergency hospitals in emergency medical services transports and ambulances, under a bill proposed by state Sen. Tom Wright.

Senate Bill 842 is the next effort by Wright to raise support for police K-9 dogs. Last year he was a co-introducer of Senate Bill 96, which increased the penalties for people who kill K-9s.

This year Wright wants to see Florida do more to keep them alive.

SB 842 authorizes both public and private services to transport wounded or injured police or fire department dogs, and to treat them, provided there are no wounded or injured humans around needing the services first.

The Republican from Port Orange said it’s currently illegal for public EMS and paramedics to take K-9s to an animal hospital.

Since working on SB 96 last year, Wright has come to view K-9s through the eyes of their law enforcement officer handlers, as both partners and as family to those officers.

“I cannot imagine being a uniformed officer watching your partner perish because there’s some stupid law on the books that says no. We’ve got an ambulance here. We’ve got two paramedics. They’ve got lights and sirens. And we can’t take this animal to an emergency vet hospital? Give me a break,” Wright said.

“So the basic guts of the bill are: assuming that you’re not choosing the dog over a human. Human first. But otherwise, transport that animal,” Wright said. “They will be allowed, if the decision is made, to transport.”

It’s more than just the rapid transport.

Wright had been a paramedic on ambulance service in his 20s. He said paramedics and emergency medical technicians do have the training and resources necessary to offer basic life-support and other stabilizing treatment for dogs in such emergencies.

“What happens oftentimes now in that situation, these [law enforcement] officers don’t wait for the EMS. They just say, ‘To heck with you; I’ve got a squad car.’ But then there’s nobody in the back. There’s nobody putting compression on the wound if it is a bleeder or something like that,” Wright said.

State Rep. David Smith of Winter Springs is sponsoring the companion, House Bill 507.

SB 96, sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, soared through the Florida Legislature last year after stories about K-9s that had been killed, notably a Jacksonville police dog named Fang. Those proceedings brought emotional testimony about the selfless heroism of such dogs, and about the love of their handlers.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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