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Gov. DeSantis signs 'Care for Retired K9s' bill

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis spoke Friday in Bunnell, Fla., joined by the sheriffs of Flagler and St. Johns counties, Sheriff Rick Staly and Sheriff Robert A. Hardwick. The governor was in Flagler county to sign legislation to provide retired Florida K9s with veterinary care.

Before the governor addressed the actual bill he said he would be signing, he provided some commentary on the latest economic reports, following the morning’s inflation updates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He called the rising costs “sad” and said it was causing residents to “struggle” at grocery stores, referring to it as “Bidenflation” and a result of bad policies in the nation’s capital.

DeSantis also talked about how Florida had remained committed to supporting its law enforcement officers, unlike other parts of the country. Referring to the recently signed state budget, which takes effect July 1, DeSantis said the new budget would provide more support than at any other time in state history.

“Yes, when you think of police officer, or you think of sheriff’s deputies, you think of these guys standing here,” DeSantis said, referring to gathered officers standing around him. “We also gotta think of these guys here on all four legs. Because they do a lot, these canines, are instrumental in helping to keep our communities safe. When I was active duty, a lot of military working dogs in places like Iraq would be in really difficult situations, it’s the same thing with these canines, where they’re put in really difficult situations. They’re not only protecting hte officers but the public as a whole.”

DeSantis referred to legislation signed in 2021 that allows police K9s to be transported by ambulance to get care “as quickly as possible.” The governor said that the state has seen how dogs help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, talking about legislation he’d sponsored while in U.S. Congress that had passed, even after he left office, to provide support to veterans with PTSD.

“Today, I’m very proud because in just a minute, I’m going to be signing Senate Bill 226, which creates the Care for Retired Police Dogs program to provide funding for the care of our retired K9s,” DeSantis said.

SB 226, “Care for Retired Police Dogs” provides $300,000 a year to go toward veterinary care for retired police dogs, through a new Florida Department of Law Enforcement program.

“Each one of these retired dogs, with no serious medical issues, costs about $3,000,” said Sheriff Rick Staly, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. “Last year, we implemented supporting our retired canines, but that is the exception, and this bill will correct that and take the burden off the handlers. Not only are they partners for life, but they become family members.”

Among its effects, SB 226 would have FDLE and the Florida Department of Corrections team up with a nonprofit to care for their retired canine partners, as previously reported by WFLA.com.

The bill provides a recurring $300,000 for veterinary care for retired dogs in budgetary allocations. Veterinary care will include “wellness examinations, vaccinations, internal and external parasite prevention treatments, testing and treatment of illnesses and diseases, medications, emergency care and surgeries, veterinary oncology or other specialty care.”

A non-profit organization will be chosen by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to administer the program.

Requirements for selection of the nonprofit are listed as:

  • Be dedicated to the protection or care of retired police dogs
  • Be a tax-exempt 501(c)3
  • Have maintained tax-exempt status for at least five years
  • Agree to be reviewed and audited at the discretion of the Auditor General to ensure accurate accounting and use of state funds
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively and efficiently disseminate information and to assist former handlers and adopters of retired police dogs in complying with this section

“Senate Bill 226 not only gives a chance to fund and help our deputy sheriffs as they take care of these retired warriors, but it also gives them a chance to partner with a not for profit,” said Sheriff Robert A. Hardwick, St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office. “Governor, we thank you again for signing another bill that benefits this profession and helps make this state the safest state with the safest cities to live, work, and retire.”

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