On May 31 of this year, Governor Kasich signed into law House Bill 187, which allows Ohio first responders to treat injured animals in emergency circumstances. Previously, only licensed veterinarians were allowed to render aid to injured or sick animals. The lives of many beloved animals in Ohio will likely be saved by this new legislation, which passed both the House and the Senate by unanimous votes.
What Does the New Law Say?
State Representative Tim Ginter (R-Salem) introduced HB 187 because of reports of police dogs dying in the line of duty because no licensed veterinarians were nearby to render aid to them. By allowing fire and medical first responders to give aid to injured canine units, the bill would save the state of Ohio the cost of replenishing its police dog ranks.
The bill’s incidental effect will be to save the lives of countless pets involved in accidents across the state. Now, when first responders discover a pet at the scene of a fire or traffic accident, they can help both the human and animal casualties.
Specifically, HB 187 authorizes Ohio first responders (including emergency medical technicians and paramedics) to give animals the sort of medical care they would give to a human victim, including the following procedures:
- Opening and manually maintaining an airway
- Administering mouth-to-snout or barrier ventilation
- Administering oxygen
- Managing mask ventilation
- Using direct pressure to control hemorrhage
- Immobilizing fractures
- Administering naloxone hydrochloride
Why Couldn’t Ohio First Responders Help Animals Before?
Before HB 187 came into effect, the licenses of EMTs and paramedics could have been revoked if they gave medical aid to animals at accident scenes. In addition, they were open to both civil and criminal liability. For example, if an animal was choking, a first responder might have needed to use a knife to open its airway. But doing so may have been considered a criminal offense.
Ohio Revised Code Section 959.02 makes it a crime to maliciously or willfully injure an animal without the consent of its owner. This statute explicitly does not apply to licensed veterinarians, who in their line of work may need to injure or even kill animals. Since first responders are not licensed veterinarians, cutting open an animal’s airway would technically consist in criminally injuring the animal.
It is unlikely, however, that a prosecutor would bring criminal charges against paramedics attempting to go above and beyond their duty in rendering aid to both the animal and human victims of an accident. The real problem is civil liability. If an animal died or was maimed during an attempted medical intervention by someone other than a licensed veterinarian, its owner could sue for the cost of the animal and the pain and suffering associated with its loss. HB 187 shields first responders from this civil liability.
Freed from the prospect of losing their licenses or facing criminal and civil liability, first responders can now aid animals in distress. Does this mean that the police will become bolder in using their valuable canine units? Previously, officers had to contend with the risk that a police dog might be mortally injured during an operation without the possibility of it receiving first aid. Now, law enforcement may be willing to use their dogs in more dangerous scenarios.
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At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we stay abreast of the latest developments in Ohio’s legal landscape to better serve our clients. Our extensive experience in criminal law and passion for advocacy has enabled us to obtain positive case outcomes for hundreds of clients across the state.
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