Change to Ohio Law Allows First Responders to Save Animals’ Lives

Firefighters and other first responders risk their lives every day to save us and our families. For many of us, animals are part of the family too. Nearly always, first responders will do their best to save our injured animal companions if they can. Did you know that in many states, they’re taking a big legal risk by doing that?

In Ohio, a new law takes care of that problem. It allows first responders to render treatment to injured animals just like they do for humans.

The problem has been that in Ohio, state law indicated that only a licensed veterinarian can “treat” an animal needing medical care. By saving the lives of pets injured in car accidents or house fires, for example, firefighters technically violated that law. That didn’t stop them, of course, but it was an uncomfortable reality.

“The intent is to allow emergency responders to provide basic first aid so the animal can be safely transported to a veterinarian for further care and treatment,” Jack Advent, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association executive director, told The Dayton Daily News. “The bill simply allows animals to receive critical care at the earliest possible moment, which is in the best interest of the animal.”

Watch this news report that describes how specially designed oxygen masks can save animals:

The new law clears the way for first responders to do the following on scene to help injured animals:

  • Opening and manually maintaining an airway;
  • Giving mouth to snout or mouth to barrier ventilation;
  • Administering oxygen;
  • Managing ventilation by mask;
  • Controlling hemorrhage with direct pressure;
  • Immobilizing fractures;
  • Bandaging; and
  • Administering naloxone hydrochloride (Narcan), if authorized by the medical director or cooperating physician advisory board of an emergency medical service organization and in consultation with a veterinarian.

The changes do not allow people to call 9-1-1 to get emergency medical help for their pets. Assisting animals must be incidental to an emergency involving humans. The new law also shields first responders acting in good faith from being sued by unhappy pet owners over a bad outcome.

Ohio’s new law goes into effect on August 31, 2016. Those who pressed for its adoption included the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association.

Here’s a news report from Ohio about the donation of pet oxygen masks to local firefighters by a local veterinarian’s office:

In addition to fire response, the new law clears the way for police officers and emergency medical technicians to immediately deal with injuries suffered by police dogs in the line of duty. In fact, enabling police to render this aid immediately was a prime motivator for the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem).

“We’ve had some canine officers succumb to drug overdoses in the process of busting up drug houses and things,” state senator Cliff Hite told the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. “And there was no protocol that was written before. And that’s why this was brought to our attention.”

How about other states? Ohio is one of the first states to make it legal for anyone other than a veterinarian to “treat” an animal. Oklahoma passed a similar law in 2014. Around the country, donations often ensure that many fire departments have pet oxygen masks and other lifesaving equipment on hand — but in most states, every time they use that equipment they run a risk.

Isn’t it time that every state authorize first responders to deal with animal medical emergencies? If you agree, look into the issue in your state. Reach out to your state representatives and urge they change state law the way Ohio and Oklahoma have.

Animals deserve first rate life saving efforts just like humans do — and first responders want to give it. Let’s remove any liability they may face for doing the right thing.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


John B
John B1 years ago

Thanks Susan for sharing the info, links and video.

william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

This should be a no brainier; pets are family!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

“We’ve had some canine officers succumb to drug overdoses in the process of busting up drug houses and things,” and "the new law clears the way for police officers and emergency medical technicians to immediately deal with injuries suffered by police dogs in the line of duty. " That was an issue? For crying out loud, the dogs should be considered officers and treated as such ANY TIME. Not to mention it is good to hear Ohio finally doing something proactive for animal care. With that being said, this is common sense that should be available in every state and fire department. I think it would be a good time to make some phone calls to see if our departments are "allowed" to help animals; and if so, are they equipped.

Diane Pease
Diane P2 years ago


Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn O2 years ago

Chloe M. in the videos it said 'not only are they trained for people now they have to know about animals too' So yes, these wonderful people are trained, and will do their best to save a family pet, as many of them have done in the past, but now legally and with helpful correct fitting masks! How great is that? God bless every one who helped with the fundraising, the vets who assisted and training, and especially these men and woman who are the real life savers. Now the rest of the world should be making Laws like this.

Telica R.
Telica R2 years ago

How awesome is that, thanks for sharing.

Karen N.
Karen N2 years ago

This is welcome news! . . . A life is a life regardless of species! . . .

"Never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

Way to go Ohio!! Hope the idea spreads to all states!!