Buffalo, NY - The heroin and opioid crisis is not only taking the lives of people. It's also having an impact on police K-9 officers. The Erie County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that officers now are carrying Narcan specifically for their police dogs. That's in case they sniff a deadly batch while searching for the drugs.
Police and first responders of all kinds must be prepared now to deal with what they encounter with these lethal drugs on the streets or in a home.
When a K-9 dog sniffs out a crime scene or a potential stash of drugs, it's a remarkable detection device. One expert notes that "a dog has 300 million sensory receptors in his nose. He's a highly sophisticated bio-sensor."
But that could also make a furry crime-fighter like K-9 Deputy Apollo of the Erie County Sheriff's Office highly susceptible to a substance like fentanyl. The synthetic substance is now mixed in with heroin by dealers. The DEA is warning first responders, including firefighters and ambulance crews, that it is 50 times stronger than street level heroin and a very small amount, such as a few grains of it, can be lethal.
We already learned earlier this year about a police officer in Ohio who was overcome with an accidental overdose during a traffic stop when fentanyl got on his skin during a search of the vehicle.
So what about a police K-9 dog like Apollo?
His partner Deputy Robert Galbraith says: "It is something that concerns me every time I do a search. Our dogs can ingest fentanyl just as a human can. Whether it's absorbed through the skin, whether he inhales it, licks it or anything like that. So it's still the same absorption as a human."
And just like safety kits that are now issued to police officers, handlers of K-9 partners are also readily equipped with special dosages of life-saving Narcan that can revive humans or animals suffering from an overdose.
Galbraith says: "Our dogs aren't trained to detect fentanyl, but if there is an exposure to fentanyl in our dogs...we have received first aid training. We're trained as to what to look for if the dog is overdosing on fentanyl."
If the dog is overcome, the animal would also be rushed to a veterinarian's office for further treatment because he or she is not just a police partner. As Galbraith puts it: "He's essentially a part of my family."