ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday morning authorizing emergency service vehicles to transport police K-9s for treatment when they are injured “safeguarding our communities.”
The governor signed into law SB 388 that allows ambulances or other emergency vehicles to take a K-9 to be treated at a clinic “if there is no individual requiring the medical attention or transport at that time.”
The governor described the role police K-9s have from responding to fires to finding missing persons to detecting narcotics.
“These K-9s use their unique ability to save lives and to protect the people of our communities throughout Florida and in some cases, they’re the ones to first put their lives on the line as they work to apprehend dangerous suspects in high-intensity situations,” DeSantis said during a news conference in St. Johns County.
St. John’s County Sheriff Robert Harwick joined the governor for the bill signing, describing police dogs as partners to law enforcement and saying they’re “men and women just like us.”
“They’re deputy sheriffs, they’re investigators, they’re fire marshals, they’re detectives, they are part of our profession,” he said. “And to stand here today with senate bill 388 and have it going into actually law, is so important for us to show the important partnership that we play here in the state of Florida with our brothers and sisters that stand behind me.”
This bill signing adds to the protection of K-9s after the governor signed SB 96 into law in 2019, which elevated the consequence people faced if they killed or caused bodily harm to police dogs or horses from third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. Backers of SB 96 pushed for the change in part as a reaction to the death of Fang, a 3-year-old member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office canine unit shot by a teenager fleeing after carjacking two women at a gas station.
The new law will go into effect July 1.
The event follows the governor’s roundtable on red tide he hosted Thursday, discussing with researchers the future of mitigation in the state and developments in technology. He reiterated the importance of mitigation as the state’s economy heavily relies on tourism.