A bill allowing the owners of retired law enforcement dogs to recoup some of their pet’s vet costs passed its final chamber of the Legislature Tuesday.
SB 226, which passed the Senate last week, was approved by the House 117-0. The legislation allows former handlers or adopters of retired law enforcement dogs that served for five years or more to get up to $1,500 annually for veterinary costs.
The bill provides $300,000 in recurring funding from the general fund to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to finance the program.
The bill defines a retired law enforcement dog as one previously in the service of, or employed by, a Florida law enforcement agency for the purpose of aiding in the detection of criminal activity, enforcement of laws, or apprehension of offenders that has been certified in obedience and apprehension work. The bill requires FDLE to contract with a nonprofit corporation selected through a competitive grant award process to manage the grant program.
Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said during the bill’s last committee stop that 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.”
Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew, the bill’s House sponsor, said during its final House committee stop that the training police dogs need is intensive and wears them out, giving them more chronic issues in older age than normal dogs.
“I kind of equate them to an NFL player after playing 10 to 12 years — they are pretty well beat up,” Killebrew said.
During the meeting, Killebrew also passed an amendment expanding eligibility to dogs injured in the line of duty. If a dog serves three years, and then an injury forces it into retirement, it will still be eligible for the funding.
Improving treatment of law enforcement dogs has been a theme over the past two sessions. A bill in the 2021 Legislative Session allowed EMTs to provide on-scene care and transportation for police dogs as they would for human law enforcement officers.
The bill’s final stop is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.