Over the sound of police dogs panting, Denise Gannon asked lawmakers to look at two pictures.
She held up one that showed her son, the late Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon, and his K9 partner Nero. She said the other, which she passed to a court officer to distribute among Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee members, showed Nero after he was wounded in the 2018 shooting that killed Sgt. Gannon and had to wait hours to receive emergency veterinary care.
"If Sean would have seen that, as any K9 officer would, he would have been devastated, because they live not only as working partners but as their family members," Denise Gannon said Thursday. "I would ask each one of you, as members of the committee, who would you leave in your family, in that state, for hours without being attended immediately? This is something we can fix. There are things that happened that can't change, but we can change this."
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The Gannon family joined other K9 officers, public safety officials and lawmakers in urging support for legislation filed by Rep. Will Crocker, known as "Nero's bill," that would allow emergency medical personnel to treat and transport working animals, provided there is not a human in need they must attend to.
Crocker said the bill (H 2037) grew out of attempts by Cape Cod residents, law enforcement, and the veterinary community "to make something good happen out of something so bad."
Sgt. Sean Gannon, 32, was killed on April 12, 2018 when he, Nero, and other officers from Barnstable and Yarmouth were serving a warrant in Marstons Mills.
Barnstable Sgt. Troy Perry, supervisor of his department's K9 unit, said he served as incident commander for all on-scene and canine operations that day, and had to make "the most difficult and unfair decision of my 22-year career" regarding Nero's treatment.
Perry said he had been informed that Gannon had succumbed to his injuries, and that Nero had been shot in the head while holed up with an armed suspect. Nero was located and rescued in a secondary search, and Perry said there was a "high probability" the dog would not survive the extensive injuries.
Though several ambulances and various rescue personnel were on scene, Perry said neither the equipment or skills were available to Nero because state law prohibits licensed medical professionals from treating or transporting police K9s.
After what he described as an "eternity of internal debate," Perry made the call to load Nero into the cramped backseat of a police cruiser with a doctor and a retired K9 officer, where the two men were able to provide basic treatment while bringing him to an emergency veterinary center in Dennis.
"My decision, or my gamble, was made through the guidance of an outdated and unrealistic law that was almost a no-win situation for all involved," he said. "Imagine the implications if my gamble did not pay off. Nero would not be here today. Dara, Sean's wife, and his family, would have lost such a meaningful connection to Sean. The Yarmouth Police Department would have lost a second officer on that day, and our community would have lost a symbol of survival and resilience."
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings and Michael Winn, chief of the Centerville Osterville Marstons Mills Fire Department, also spoke in support. Yarmouth K9 handler Michael Kramer was one of three K9 officers who testified for the bill with their dogs alongside.
"There isn't a K9 handler worth his spit that wouldn't risk their life for their dog, and frankly, I think we should be ashamed of ourselves, all of us, for not doing this sooner," Kramer said, standing with his dog, Satu. "It's just a travesty because if we were both hurt, I would want him treated before myself."
One of the last speakers to testify on Crocker's bill, Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson, told the lawmakers on the committee that he had been watching their body language throughout the morning and said he was "pretty sure you're convinced this is the right thing to do."
"You're in a position where you have to legislate common sense, so all I can ask you is to move this as quickly as you can and get it done," he said. "You will make a lot of people happy. The support in the public is unbelievable. You will all look good by doing what is right."