People with medical training are usually associated with providing basic first aid and emergency medical care for humans. They are the people who respond when people are most in need and help them out in a crisis. Their roles could be about to change as it may become a legal requirement for them to deliver the same level of care to sick and injured animals.
Those who currently provide medical and non-medical care to humans, such as healthcare professionals and first responders, are currently covered so that they need not fear civil liability. However, this does not apply to people who deliver emergency medical care for domesticated pets.
This situation is set to change with the introduction of the Senate Bill 1305. This bill was once known as the Sutter Brown Act, a name it was given to honor the late dog of Governor Brown. This bill would give emergency medical technicians the authorization to deliver basic first aid to cats and dogs. This would include treatments such as applying a bandage to a wound to prevent it from bleeding, administering oxygen, and giving the animal mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The bill was written by Senator Steve Glazer of D-Contra Costa County. According to Glazer, Senate Bill 1305 is a necessity to protect those who want to administer care to animals. Although many first responders are willing to deliver first aid and emergency care to animals, many cannot do so as it is currently illegal for them to offer this care in the state of California.
In theory, anyone who administers emergency care to an animal in California is at risk of being sued by the pet’s owner if anything goes wrong. This is a deterrent to many who would otherwise be willing to provide animals with the emergency care they need. However, this situation is virtually non-existent as it is extremely rare for the owner of a pet to sue somebody who has tried to help them in a time of distress or medical emergency. With this in mind, there are those who argue that the bill is unnecessary as it is solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.
Despite the argument that the bill is not needed, the Senate Bill 1305 was passed by the Senate in May 2018 and will now be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Depending on what they decide after reading the bill, it could become the law that people can treat cats and dogs in need of emergency medical attention.
It is not just in California where state law says it is illegal to administer first aid to a pet as there are many other states where the same rules apply, but gradually bills are being passed to reverse this situation. In most cases, emergency services are happy to administer any care that is needed regardless of whether it is illegal or not.
One example of this is the firefighters who rescued a cat in Pikesville, Maryland. The cat was pulled from a burning apartment by the Volunteer Fire Company. When they first rescued the cat, it wasn’t breathing. The firefighters made the decision to give the cat an oxygen mask and this soon got the animal breathing again. They then transported the cat to a 24-hour veterinary center, just like an ambulance would take a human patient to the nearest emergency department.
The firefighters who delivered the oxygen to the cat did not see it as a big deal and it is something they had done many times before with other animals they had rescued from fires. However, in Maryland at that time, just like California, their actions were illegal as they are not covered for liability. Despite this, nobody in Maryland has ever been prosecuted or sued for delivering emergency care to a pet.
Unlike California, Maryland has now got a bill in place that does allow members of the emergency services to administer care to animals. The bill was passed in April 2017 and Maryland followed in the footsteps of other states where such bills had already been passed. Ohio passed a similar law in 2016 while Colorado was one of the leaders in making this change as their bill was passed in 2014. As other states have already paved the way, it seems unlikely that there will be any objections to California passing Senate Bill 1305.