Bill to allow emergency responders to render aid to pets sees support at the capitol

Bill to allow emergency responders to render aid to pets sees support at the capitol
Fire fighters in Bakersfield, Calif. give oxygen to a dog after rescuing him from a house fire

A new bill considered at the capitol on Wednesday would allow emergency medical technicians and first responders to care for sick or injured house pets.

In the state of Wisconsin, only veterinarians are allowed to give aid to animals.

Bill 522 would amend the law to give first responders civil and criminal immunity for any outcomes of rendering first aid to domestic animals.

“This is at the scene of an already existing emergency for humans. If an animal is involved at that scene, like a house fire, a motor vehicle accident,” said veterinarian Lisa Peters.

Peters said EMTs have the equipment and knowledge to provide oxygen, hemorrhage control, bandage and give CPR to animals. In serious cases, these measures are necessary before transporting a pet to an emergency veterinarian.

But many first responders in Wisconsin already do this.

“It’s just very unclear as to the liability of those people to be sued if they did something wrong or if they could be blamed for harming the animal,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens, one of the bill authors.

“The flip side to the bill is they can also decline to help as well, and that also gives them immunity,” said Peters.

Multiple law enforcement officers from across the state testified at a hearing in support of the bill.

“What I love about this bill is that it takes the guys that are already willing to do it, and gives them the ability to do it,” said Holly McManus with the St. Francis Police Department.

McManus has been partnered with K-9 Bane for four years. She said EMTs in Milwaukee County are willing to help police dogs like Bane, but it is harder for K-9 handlers in rural areas.

“If I have a situation where a dog is severely injured and has to go to an emergency vet clinic, we’re talking a 45 to 60 minute drive time. That’s a long time to have an injured animal basically thrown in the back seat of your squad car, praying that he makes it,” said Sgt. Brian Noll with the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office.

Police dogs are at an increased risk of injury and overdose from sniffing drugs.

Currently, if they are hurt on the scene, it is the responsibility of the handler to treat them.

“I’m aware of at least two deaths this year where K-9 handlers lost their dogs because they didn’t have the tools and knowledgeable personnel to help them,” said Bob Wierenga, executive director of County Law Enforcement Professionals of Wisconsin.

The Committee on Health is set to vote of the bill in the next few weeks.

Peters expects that if the bill passes, veterinarians across the state will be happy to host training sessions for local first responders.