Protecting Our First Responders When They Save Our Pets

It’s 3:00 and the fire station gets a call. The first responders suit up and are on the scene in minutes to put out the blaze. As the firefighters bravely battle the flames and smoke, the family is safely outside and watches in disbelief. Suddenly, they realize that their beloved dog is still inside the burning house. Within minutes, the firefighters emerge with the beloved family dog, who looks traumatized, is panting, and in some respiratory distress after inhaling smoke. Animals suffer more quickly from smoke damage as their lungs are smaller.

The anxious family watches, with relief and gratitude, as the firefighter places a specially designed oxygen mask on their dear four-legged companion. Their dog’s respiration is stabilized. The fire is out, and all members of the family are safe. Mission accomplished.

But there’s a problem.

According to Maryland’s Attorney General, Maryland Law currently states that it is a crime for anyone to treat animals without a veterinary license. It is a misdemeanor that carries penalties that could include jail time and fines. Moreover, Maryland Law does not give civil immunity to first responders who rescue dogs and cats from fires, hot cars, or similar emergencies as it does when first responders or persons with a medical license treat people, The Good Samaritan Law. Even basic first aid without permission, such as giving an animal oxygen or stopping bleeding from an injury by a First Responder is considered treating an animal without a veterinary license under current Maryland Law.

Our first responders put their lives on the line for people and animals. This bill would allow first responders, law enforcement, and persons with a medical license to legally perform basic first aid and have civil immunity when giving basic first aid treatment to an animal in an emergency.

Twenty-two states, including New York, make similar exceptions when providing aid to an animal in an emergency. A similar bill passed this past spring in Ohio and was signed by Governor Kasich, so that first responders are protected, and do not hesitate when they rescue a pet who needs immediate care in an emergency.

Please urge your legislators to vote YES on HB 216/SB 269, so that first responders are protected – and don’t hesitate – to save the lives of our pets in emergencies!