Lawmaker wants to provide aid for retired police dogs

The North Port Police Department has four canine units assigned for patrol, narcotics detection, missing persons, and many more duties. Photo courtesy:

Police dogs are often the first ones to put their lives on the line to keep their partners and communities safe. They are known for their keen senses and have become an integral part of many law enforcement agencies.

However, much like their fellow officers, service dogs are frequently put in dangerous situations where they become more susceptible to injuries, which can sometimes lead to expensive medical fees for the officers who decide to adopt them.

In Florida, a bill was added to the state House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee agenda on Thursday that would essentially establish a program for the care for retired service dogs with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide financial support for veterinary care.

HB 25, set to be heard by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety Subcommittee, was introduced by Rep. Sam H. Killebrew, R-Winter Haven. It would require FDLE to contract with a nonprofit corporation to administer and manage the care for the retired law enforcement dog program. It must be selected after meeting a criterion and going through a competitive grant-award process.

UCF police dog, buster, retired seven years ago from the UCF Police Department due to several medical issues. Photo courtesy:

According to the bill, “a retired law enforcement dog means a dog that was previously in the service of or employed by a law enforcement agency in this state for the principal purpose of aiding in the detection of criminal activity, operation of a correctional facility, enforcement of laws, or apprehension of offenders and that received certification in obedience and apprehension work from a certifying organization, such as the National Police Canine Association, Inc., or other certifying organization,” as stated in Florida House of Representatives bill analysis.

According to the bill’s fiscal analysis and economic impact statement, [it] limits the annual disbursement to a former handler or adopter of a retired law enforcement dog to $1,500. Funds may not roll over if they are unused by the former handler or adopter in a given year. Further, the bill clarifies that a former handler or adopter may not receive reimbursement for care if the funds appropriated to the program have already been depleted for the given year.

Killebrew told legislators that the next amendment is coming regarding dogs who are forced to retire before five years due to an injury.

After working long, hard and dutiful careers, retired canines are now prioritized more than ever before it this legislation becomes Florida law. The bill also provides an appropriation of $300,000 in recurring funds to establish and maintain the program.