Hank Investigates: Police K9s at Risk

BRAINTREE, MASS. (WHDH) – Braintree police officer Bill Cushing and his K9 partner Kitt spent eleven years as a team on the front lines. 

Last week their partnership was tragically cut short.    

A suspect hiding in the woods opened fire on them and fellow officer Matthew Donoghue. 

Both men were hit but survived. 

Kitt was killed. 

Sources tell 7 News the brave K9 jumped on top of his partner to help save him from the bullets. 

“They would do anything to protect the handler and those around them. They truly are the epitome of selflessness, Braintree Deputy Chief Tim Cohoon said.  

But our investigation found something shocking in the care of these selfless K9s. 

If a dog is hurt on the job, it’s against the law for EMTs to treat the animal or use an ambulance to get to a vet quickly. 

“It would be the least we could do for what some of these animals have done for us,” Cohoon said. 

7 Investigates first revealed this problem three years ago when Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon and his K9 partner Nero were both shot. 

An ambulance raced Officer Gannon to the hospital. Unfortunately, he would not survive. 

Nero was badly injured but paramedics and EMTs at the scene weren’t allowed to help him. 

Empty ambulances filled with IV fluid, bandages, oxygen, and medication were also off-limits. 

“That fact that we couldn’t use a tool that was available to us because of some law that is really outdated and misunderstood, very frustrating. Beyond frustrating.” Sergeant Troy Perry from the Barnstable Police told 7 News in 2018.  

Officers put Nero in a police cruiser and raced the bleeding dog to an animal hospital.  

“I think it’s horrific,” Denise Morency Gannon, who is Officer Gannon’s mother said.   

“When they’re hurt, the K9’s get put in the back seat of a car,” Hank said. 

“I think it’s a travesty. And I think it needs to be changed,” Gannon said.  

Nero eventually recovered and his close call led one state lawmaker to try to change the law. But it did not happen. 

Now Kitt’s death is spurring a new push for K9s to get on scene medical help if injured, just like their police partners. 

“I’m concerned that something bad could happen again. And we need to fix this law to make sure we’re protecting them,” State Representative Steven Xiarhos said.  

Xiarhos has filed a bill that would allow injured K9s to be treated by EMS teams and transported by ambulances. That’s already the law in several other states.  

Here is a link to the proposed Massachusetts legislation: An Act providing for the care and transportation of police dogs injured in the line of duty  

The links below contain information on laws other states passed, and how emergency responders can assist police K9’s and transport in ambulances: 

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Maureen McMichael and Dr. Ashley Mitek developed educational tools and resources: 
https://vetmed.illinois.edu/2018-graduate-creates-k9-emergency-kits/ 

Illinois law: 
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=100-0108 

New York law: 
https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s4990 

Mississippi law: 
https://legiscan.com/MS/bill/SB2091/2018 

Ohio law, allows first responders to give medical attention to dogs and cats: 
http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4765.52 

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