In Wisconsin’s opioid crisis, police K-9 handlers ask lawmakers to ease medical help for police dogs

MADISON --Wisconsin police officers are asking state lawmakers to give first responders legal immunity for giving medical aid to certain pets and police dogs on emergency scenes.

The legislation, offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would not require EMTs and paramedics to help animals. But supporters say it would lead medical professionals to seek more training.

St. Francis Police Officer Holly McManus and K-9 Bane

K-9 handlers told legislators in Madison this week that the state's opioid crisis was increasingly putting their dogs at risk while searching for drugs and suspects in homes, cars and other places. St. Francis Police Officer Holly McManus was able to laugh about a scare that happened as her K-9 partner, Bane, searched a car for drugs last year.

"After he ate the guy's cinnamon roll, he then found the drugs," McManus said, drawing laughter from lawmakers as Bane was seated next to her in a Capitol hearing room. "I was worried that the cinnamon roll had something in it, or that in the process of trying to hide the drugs from the police -- so I had to monitor him."

The next day, she started carrying Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

Marquette County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Brian Noll said his partner, Blackjack, might need more help than he knows how to provide.

Marquette County Sergeant Brian Noll and K-9 Blackjack

"That basically leaves me the option of stabilizing him the best you can. Put him in the back of your squad car, drive 45 to 60 minutes and hope that the dog makes it while you can provide him no continuing treatment because he's in the backseat," Noll said.

Noll said he also carries Narcan.

Lisa Peters, a veterinarian, said the change won't allow people to use 911 as a service to help a sick pet.

"This really is truly being able to support these K-9s, these dogs and cats, at the scene of an already-existing emergency," Peters said.

The Humane Society of the United States, Wisconsin EMS Association, and the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association are supporting the bill. No groups have announced opposition to it.

Narcan

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, who controls the bill as Senate Judiciary chairman, said he was planning a committee vote on it within a week. There is a companion bill in the Assembly, and it has also received a public hearing.