Legislature passes Nero’s Law to help police dogs receive emergency medical care

When Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon was shot and killed in a Marstons Mills attic in April 2018, his K-9 partner Nero was also shot and injured.

A bullet had passed through Nero’s cheek and lodged under his right shoulder, according to testimony from Dr. Kelsey McKenna, who worked at Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Dennis when Nero was admitted.

Despite Nero’s serious injuries, state law did not allow him to be transported to an ambulance, where he might have been able to receive emergency medical treatment. Instead, he rode in the back of a police car en route to seek treatment.

Retired Yarmouth Police Constable Peter McClelland with Sgt. Sean Gannon’s dog, Nero, at Yarmouth Police Station in May 2018, while K-9 was still recovering from gunshot wounds in a shootout that killed Gannon.

The then 2-year-old Belgian Malinois survived his injuries and is now retired from the Yarmouth Police Department.

A bill passed by the state legislature earlier this week allows injured police dogs to seek emergency medical treatment.

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“His tragic murder (of Sergeant Gannon) and the life-threatening injuries sustained by his K-9 partner, Nero, has left Cape Town and the islands in shock and grief,” said Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, who spoke in favor of Nero’s Law, which allows police dogs injured on duty to receive immediate emergency medical treatment and be transported by ambulance.

“I’m proud to be the lead sponsor of Nero’s bill in the House this session, and I’m very pleased the House voted to approve the bill,” said State Representative Steven Xiarhos, R-Barnstable, in a press release.

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According to Xiarhos – who, prior to his election to the House, was Deputy Chief of Police of the Yarmouth Police Department at the time of the incident – Nero’s bill is desperately needed to ensure that a tragedy similar will not happen again in the future. .

The bill, which passed the Massachusetts House and Senate on Monday, grew out of that tragic incident. It will now go to Governor Charlie Baker for final approval.

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Yarmouth Police Sgt.  Sean Gannon and his K-9 partner Nero in 2017.

Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon and his K-9 partner Nero in 2017.

What will Nero’s Bill do?

Nero’s law is a step in the right direction, said Dr. Tom Burns, hospital director at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod.

“They’re working animals, animals that are often endangered, you know, instead of humans, and so it seems right and ethical that they receive emergency treatment for any injuries they might sustain in the roles they have,” he said.

The new law not only allows transport of the injured animal, but also emergency medical care such as oxygen administration, bandaging and mouth-muzzle ventilation.

Although the EMS provider may need to administer care to a dog, at present the legislation does not mandate any additional training for these procedures.

“There’s definitely, you know, species-transcending first aid care out there,” Burns said.

The hospital director said that over time he thinks there will be more specific training regarding emergency animal care. Additionally, under the bill, an EMS provider may require someone from the police department to accompany the police dog in the ambulance, such as the injured handler.

Why are K-9s so important?

Police dogs perform many tasks for the department, including searching buildings, tracking people and detecting drugs and bombs, Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson said. But they also have a more subtle ability, which is often overlooked.

“Their ability to break down barriers, to reach young and old, people of all races, to start some kind of conversation…everyone loves a dog,” he said. “They go a long way in establishing communications with everyone, as well as building trust with our police department.”

Frederickson said the department owes Nero’s Law to Police Dogs that put themselves in harm’s way. He also said the bill will give the police dog handler peace of mind that their partner will be treated to the best of the department’s ability.

“A K-9 manager and his K-9 are one unit. They are like family…the trust, faith and love between a K-9 officer and the K-9 is immeasurable,” Frederickson said.

Contact Asad Jung at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @asadjungcct

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: K-9 Nero’s Law Brings Emergency EMS Care of Injured Police Dogs to Home