ARVADA, Colo.-- The opioid epidemic in our country is posing a new threat to our officers on the streets as well as their four-legged partners, as more powerful and potent drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil appear more often.
K-9 officers are trained to sniff out narcotics, and even a small amount on the skin or trace that gets inhaled can potentially kill them.
A nonprofit, Colorado Police K-9 Association, will be training officers on how to spot the signs of ingestion and how to treat the K-9 in case of an emergency.
They will use tools, like Narcan, a drug that reverses an overdose and can buy the animal time on the way to the hospital. A kit will also include an ambu bag to help the K-9 breathe.
In the streets, Officer B. Laas with the Arvada Police Department, relies on his partner, 2-year-old Rudy, to sniff out narcotics. That bond and trust isn't just on the clock.
"They're family. They're like our children and I need to make sure they're properly taken care,” said Laas. "Across the nation, there have been several dogs that have died due to the exposure."
Dr. Pratt, with Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and Officer Laas, who also sits on the board of the Colorado Police K-9 Association, are working on a plan to train all K-9 handlers in Colorado. As mentioned, the most important tool is detection.
"Sleepiness, comatose type of state where they're not responsive to vocal commands," said Pratt.
The process has changed, given the potential presence of these drugs at a scene. Now, the officer will do a sweep at a scene or during a traffic stop before having the dog sniff. Anything to help save their partner's lives.
"My whole mentality is to make sure it is safe for the dog to go to work and then we do that," said Laas.
For more information about the Colorado Police K9 Association, check this website. If you'd like to learn more about detecting the signs of an opioid ingestion in your pet, click here.