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Published March 7th, 2018
New pet rescue bill would allow firefighters to administer emergency care to dogs and cats

Imagine firefighters putting out a fire at your home and saving your residence, with minimal damage, except that your dog remains unaccounted for. After a few agonizing minutes, a firefighter races out of the smoky home, cradling your small dog. The dog suffers from smoke inhalation and desperately needs oxygen, but should the firefighter attempt to resuscitate the animal using a pet oxygen delivery pack, that heroic effort could be met with legal action.
That is because it is unlawful for anyone - including first responders - to practice veterinary medicine in California unless they are a licensed veterinarian. Firefighters and paramedics are not allowed to provide first aid to dogs or cats rescued from a fire or other emergency. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, or imprisonment, or both.
Upon enactment of Senate Bill 1305, introduced by Sen. Steve Glazer in February, neither first responders nor their employers will be liable for damages or criminal prosecution for providing emergency care to an injured dog or cat at the scene of an emergency.
Jay Kerr, a veterinarian and a director of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, came to Glazer with the idea for the bill. "We don't want our firefighters to hesitate to treat a pet because they're worried about it," Kerr said. "This legislation will allow them to provide these services legally."
Glazer said that at a recent town hall he asked how many in attendance had a dog or cat. "Seventy percent of the audience raised their hands," said Glazer, who grew up with dogs and cats in his home, and has had dogs throughout his marriage.
"Imagine someone who has the training and ability to save the life of a pet and wants to, but can't because it is illegal," said the bill's coauthor, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker. She talked about Max, the mixed-breed dog she rescued from the pound and kept for 16 years, as if he were family. "Providing comfort for pets provides comfort for family members," Baker said.
"From my perspective, anything that allows our first responders to effectively care for the public during their time of need is a positive," said Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Dave Winnacker.
Kerr's fire chief, Lafayette's Paige Meyer, knows all too well the scenario described in the opening paragraph. "We are committed to saving life and property, and pets check off both boxes," Meyer said. "Actually, some people would be happier that we rescued their pet than saved their home."
The bill does not require first responders to treat the animals. If the emergency providers choose to, they can administer services like opening and maintaining an airway, giving mouth-to-snout ventilation, immobilizing fractures and bandaging.
According to Glazer's policy analyst, SB 1305 will likely be voted on after spring break, which ends April 2.
This is not Glazer's first legislation to aid animals in need. The state senator from Orinda coauthored the 2017 Right to Rescue Act, which exempts a person from criminal liability for actions taken reasonably and in good faith to remove a dog or cat from an overheating vehicle.

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