Hibbing Police Officer Joey Burns has served alongside his partner, Chase, since 2018.
“He’s more than just a pet, more than just a working dog,” Burns said of the police dog during a Friday hearing of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee. “He is a member of the family.”
Which is why he was so surprised to discover that if Chase were injured in the line of duty, it would be considered a gross misdemeanor for any paramedics or emergency medical technicians to help him.
HF568, sponsored by Rep. Shane Mekeland (R-Clear Lake), would allow emergency medical personnel to provide care to police dogs wounded in the line of duty without being licensed by the Board of Veterinary Medicine.
It was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.
Police dogs can – and have – been injured in a range of situations. This year alone, an Anoka police dog was shot after an armed carjacking and Duluth police dog was shot and killed when police responded to a domestic assault, Burns said.
Because of where those events took place, both dogs were able to receive medical attention in a timely manner. But Hibbing’s veterinarians aren’t necessarily available during the evenings. The nearest emergency veterinarian could be more than an hour’s drive away – 40 minutes with lights on and sirens blaring, he said.
“If he’s stabbed or shot … the chances of him making it are very slim,” Burns said. “So, this bill would help our fire department … help us get him to a vet safely with a better chance of survival.”
The bill would not require EMS to respond to calls to assist injured canines if they were on other calls, but it would give them the ability to provide assistance when they could, Burns said.
Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount), an EMT himself, said he not only received a note from the Minnesota Ambulance Association in support of the bill, but has heard directly from paramedics and EMTs across the state who are excited to attend training specifically designed to help them respond in these situations.
“This is an important bill, but we really need to address gun violence. It’s a public health issue,” said Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth). “We can see the effects of that, not only on our dogs, but on so many people that we love in our lives.”