Nation-Wide Variation in Presence of Legislation or Protocols for EMS Care of Operational Canines

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2024 Feb;39(1):59-64. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X24000074. Epub 2024 Feb 15.


Background & aims: Deployment of law enforcement operational canines (OpK9s) risks injuries to the animals. This study's aim was to assess the current status of states' OpK9 (veterinary Emergency Medical Services [VEMS]) laws and care protocols within the United States.

Methods: Cross-sectional standardized review of state laws/regulations and OpK9 VEMS treatment protocols was undertaken. For each state and for the District of Columbia (DC), the presence of OpK9 legislation and/or care protocols was ascertained. Information was obtained through governmental records and from stakeholders (eg, state EMS medical directors and state veterinary boards).The main endpoints were proportions of states with OpK9 laws and/or treatment protocols. Proportions are reported with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Fisher's exact test (P <.05) assessed whether presence of an OpK9 law in a given jurisdiction was associated with presence of an OpK9 care protocol, and whether there was geographic variation (based on United States Census Bureau regions) in presence of OpK9 laws or protocols.

Results: Of 51 jurisdictions, 20 (39.2%) had OpK9 legislation and 23 (45.1%) had state-wide protocols for EMS treatment of OpK9s. There was no association (P = .991) between presence of legislation and presence of protocols. There was no association (P = .144) between presence of legislation and region: Northeast 66.7% (95% CI, 29.9-92.5%), Midwest 50.0% (95% CI, 21.1-78.9%), South 29.4% (95% CI, 10.3-56.0%), and West 23.1% (95% CI, 5.0-53.8%). There was significant (P = .001) regional variation in presence of state-wide OpK9 treatment protocols: Northeast 100.0% (95% CI, 66.4-100.0%), Midwest 16.7% (95% CI, 2.1-48.4%), South 47.1% (95% CI, 23.0-72.2%), and West 30.8% (95% CI, 9.1-61.4%).

Conclusion: There is substantial disparity with regard to presence of OpK9 legal and/or clinical guidance. National collaborative guidelines development is advisable to optimize and standardize care of OpK9s. Additional attention should be paid to educational and training programs to best utilize the limited available training budgets.

Keywords: EMS protocols; canine; operational K9; police canine EMS; veterinary EMS.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dogs
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Law Enforcement
  • United States