ALBANY – A new push to help cover medical bills of police K-9s across New York is underway, with Jamestown’s representative in the State Senate among those leading the charge.
The Canine Officer Health Monitoring Fund, sponsored by State Senator George Borrello, passed the Codes Committee last week.
“Our canine officers are truly law enforcement officials. They stand side by side and take risks and in some cases sacrifice their own lives to protect others,” says Borrello. “And unfortunately, by law, they are not treated as police officers, they’re actually treated as property. And as a result, healthcare costs for them are not covered.”
The bill will reimburse municipalities and law enforcement agencies for canine officer health costs, it would also establish a system to collect canine officer health data.
“In Jamestown, we certainly had the situation where a K9 officer was stabbed in the neck. Although he survived, he sadly passed away from cancer,” explains Borrello. “But these animals are partners with our law enforcement officials. They often take the bullet so that one of our police officers doesn’t have to. And they deserve to have every measure possible to save their lives.”
K9 Mitchell was stabbed under the jaw by homicide suspect Keith Robbins in 2016, and was saved by the heroic actions of his handler, and the team at an animal hospital.
Canine officers on drug detection duty face additional hazard, as the inhalation of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl can cause injury or death.
The Senator continued that the owners of these dogs should not have to be put in a position where they must divide if they can afford lifesaving care or not. Despite partisan tension, the Senator was able to push the bill ahead.
“Senator Bailey who chaired the committee that this went before. I requested this out, which is a formal process where you essentially force a bill onto a committee agenda. Because it’s been around since last year and it hadn’t been on the agenda. And Senator Bailey came to me and said, ‘I love this bill.’ He actually spoke favorably about it and it passed almost unanimously in committee,” said Borrello.
Borrello hopes to have the bill fully passed by the end of the year to protect these animals.