Bill creating medical fund for Florida’s retired law enforcement dogs moves to full Senate

military working dogs
Sometimes the cost of veterinary care for retired enforcement and corrections dogs can be overwhelming in the dogs' golden years.

Retired corrections and law enforcement dogs could have health care provided by state funds, according to a bill that received its third and final Senate committee approval Thursday.

Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell introduced the legislation (SB 226) that creates the Care for Retired Law Enforcement Dogs Program within the Department of Law Enforcement. The legislation will set aside $300,000 in recurring funds from the General Revenue Fund, allowing FDLE to contract with a nonprofit corporation to manage the veterinary care.

The Senate Appropriations Committee OK’d the bill Thursday. Powell, from West Palm Beach, said these law enforcement dogs are unique partners in crime-fighting.

“They have capabilities that far exceed those of any human being or any technology that we have,” Powell said. “They provide extremely cost-effective approaches to crime control.”

The dogs would have had to serve at least five years in a crime-fighting capacity to be eligible for the program that buys $1,500 in veterinary care annually for each retired dog, according to an analysis of the bill.

Usually, working dogs retired from law enforcement and corrections go to live with their handler, the bill’s analysis says. Sometimes the costs of veterinary care can become unaffordable for the handler because of the wear and tear resulting from their working years, such as joint problems from standing.

Two dogs retired from serving the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, for example, had apprehended suspects and sniffed narcotics for a total of 190 deployments.

Miami Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, read a letter aloud from a student attending MAST Academy in Miami urging him to support the bill.

“I wrote back and told her that I was an easy sell because I’m a dog lover,” he said.

Next, the bill will go to the full Senate.

The House companion bill (HB 25) is on the House calendar. It is sponsored by Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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