Tenn. - A Tennessee law is now helping take care of highway patrol dogs after they retire from service. In the past, handlers have been left to pay the bills themselves.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Andrew Connors is one of many handlers who handle the dogs. He takes of his dog, Laky, both on and off the clock.
"He is very good with my family,” Connors said. “They just love him to death. He's just like one of the rest of us. We're his family and he's our family."
While Laky is in service, the state will pay for his medical costs. But after retirement, the costs for many dogs rise.
"It can be very expensive for the handlers,” Connors said. “A lot times they'll have hip dysplasia. They'll have to be on medication because their hindquarters, their legs start to give out just from working day in and day out."
Tennessee House Bill 1353, passed in May 2017, will help handlers offset those costs. It allots $1,020 per year ($85 per month) for the dogs' medical costs. But the bill only applies to Tennessee Highway Patrol, not to city or county K9's.
"If there's a bill like that in the future, we could run something across the state for each county,” State Representative John Holsclaw, who sponsored the bill, said.”But then you'd probably get into a larger physical note which would be a lot harder to get passed through."
Holsclaw said he would consider passing a bill for city and county handlers too. But for now, it's the Tennessee Highway Patrol handlers who will benefit.
"That will take a lot of the cost off of the handler trying to make ends meet to make sure the dog is taken care of,” Connors said. “They're going to do what it takes to make sure the dog is taken care of regardless, but with this bill that's passed; it's going to make it a whole lot easier."
Sullivan County and Washington County, Tennessee handlers currently pay for their dogs' medical bills after retirement. Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he would support the state helping pay those costs.
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