Fay's canine officer protection bill signed by Governor

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AUGUSTA — Governor LePage signed legislation last week that aims to provide clarity in situations where canine police officers and other service dogs need emergency medical treatment. 

The legislation, LD 1716, seeks to shield emergency medical personnel or law enforcement dog handlers from civil liability in cases where they provide critical first aid or emergency treatment to a police dog, search-and-rescue dog, or service dog before the animal is brought to a veterinarian.

The bill, which was signed March 16 and will become law 90 days after the current legislative session ends, was authored by Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond.

“I’d like to thank Governor LePage for signing this common sense piece of legislation,” Fay said in a press release. “These dogs and the people who work with them are absolutely dedicated to each other, and this law will give these specially trained dogs a better chance to survive a serious injury in the field.”

Fay worked with Casco resident Michelle Cole, an officer and canine handler in the Portland Police Department, to develop the bill. 

Cole said that she is “pretty ecstatic” that the bill passed and was signed into law, but said it was a first step in the effort to train and prepare more people to treat service dogs in emergency situations.

Cole’s canine partner in the Portland Police Department, a German Shepherd named Kaine, retired recently after nearly eight years on the force. He will continue to live with Cole in retirement. She is currently training in Texas with Kaine’s prospective canine replacement 

Good Samaritan protection for non-veterinarians providing emergency care to animals already exists under the Maine Veterinary Practice Act, but proponents of Fay’s bill say the additional clarification is necessary to shield first-responders and dog handlers from civil action if something goes wrong.

The bill had support from various members of the veterinary and law enforcement communities. 

Cole said that veterinarians, law enforcement members and emergency medical personnel will still need to collaborate on training in order to “make sure that we do it right.”

Cole said the group that worked on this bill “wanted to make sure, first of all, that were safe in doing it – and that we weren’t liable.” 

Other bill cosponsors from the area included Rep. Kevin Battle, I-South Portland; Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham; Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Portland Police Officer Michelle Cole, of Casco, worked with Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond, on a bill relating to first aid and emergency care for police dogs. Governor Paul LePage signed the bill on March 16. 

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