By Kevin Landrigan
New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
CONCORD, NH — The parents of a slain Yarmouth, Mass., police officer joined Manchester and Portsmouth police Tuesday in calling on the legislature to require dogs injured in the line of duty to receive on-site treatment by first responders.
“Amending this law would bring New Hampshire into line with standard protocols that save the lives of these K-9s that are such a part of the law enforcement fabric today,” said Patrick Gannon.
The legislation became a crusade for Gannon and his wife, Denise Morency Gannon, following the fatal shooting of their son Sean and the fatal wounding of Sean’s police dog, Nero, in 2018.
Massachusetts state law at the time did not allow emergency medical technicians to attend to Nero or take him to a veterinary hospital in one of several empty ambulances.
Despite being shot in the head, Nero survived after he drove to the vet in the back of a police cruiser.
The New Hampshire bill (SB 268) to create Max’s Law would honor the memory of a Portsmouth dog who died in 2019 after suffering internal injuries in a training exercise in Rollinsford.
“Without this law in place, we will never know if Max could have benefited from more timely transportation,” Patrick Gannon said.
Three New England states have passed similar laws.
Former Gov. Charles Baker signed the Massachusetts law last year; Maine and Rhode Island are among several other states that have also adopted it.
“This is a common sense change to update our laws to reflect current practices when it comes to K-9 police units,” said Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown, no relation to the Massachusetts family.
Denise Morency Gannon said the purpose of this legislative effort is to highlight the important contributions that police dogs make in support of public safety.
“We stand behind law enforcement and it’s so gratifying to see them support their K-9s,” she said.
As written, the bill makes it clear that dogs may only ride in ambulances after other vehicles have taken all casualties from the scene.
When the dog has been taken to the vet, the bill requires the ambulance to be completely cleaned.
EMTs are also granted immunity from personal liability for transporting the dog unless there is proof of “gross negligence.”
“In the past, the belief was that putting the dog in an ambulance transport could somehow compromise that environment,” Patrick Gannon said.
“Also, EMTs did not receive proper training to work with dogs. All that has changed.”
In 2021, Thomas Latanowich of Somerville, Massachusetts was convicted of second degree murder in the death of Sean Gannon. He was sentenced to life in prison but will eventually be eligible for parole.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held initial testimony on the bill Tuesday. The bill is sponsored by 13 out of 24 state senators from both political parties.
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