It is their job to find drugs, but the drugs that K-9 officers search for can be just as deadly to the four-footed members of law enforcement.
Police officers have started carrying naloxone, or narcan, on drug raids to help when police dogs encounter opioids, The Associated Press reported.
Three K-9 officers in Florida had to be taken to an animal hospital last year when they were exposed to fentanyl.
“Dogs are not looking for drugs with their eyes and feeling with their fingers; they’re literally breathing it in and inhaling it,” Brian Foley, deputy police chief in Hartford, Connecticut, told The AP.
It can also be absorbed through the dog’s paws.
“It’s very dangerous,” Kevin Hoying, a K-9 officer with Springfield police department, told the Springfield News-Sun. “Their noses are wet. If it gets airborne, it will stick to their nose, they’ll take it and they’ll overdose just like people.”
The Springfield K-9 unit had to refuse some search warrants that needed drug sniffing dogs recently because of fentanyl, The News-Sun reported.
Police in Hartford started carrying naloxone for their dogs in January. Massachusetts state police started in March. Deputy sheriffs in Greenville County, South Carolina, received training on using nasal naloxone on their dogs in February, The AP reported.
Massachusetts state police troopers are also being trained to not release dogs when loose drugs are found.
Naloxone, administered as either a shot or a nose spray, blocks the effect of opioids and can reverse overdoses.
The Drug Enforcement Administration warned police officers that a small amount of fentanyl, either ingested or absorbed through the skin, can be deadly to both humans and police dogs.
Fentanyl is usually mixed with heroin and is 50 times more potent than heroin.