Local law enforcement trains to protect K-9 partners from deadly opioids

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More dogs are overdosing from the deadly forms of fentanyl now on the streets especially police K-9s, vital to the local war on opioids.

Boston 25 news reporter Crystal Haynes got to see first-hand, how law enforcement is changing what they do at crime scenes to protect their four-legged partners.

“We’ve not seen the prevalence, the availability of drugs like this. And not just the drugs themselves, the potency,” said Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald Jr.

Drug detecting dogs are vital in the battle, but now highly potent opioids are changing the way these dogs work.

Drug investigators are now carrying Narcan.

“Our dogs are like family so it would be the same as taking care of a family member that had some kind of medical emergency,” said Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer, Lt. James Creed.

The very skill that's helping police K-9s fight the opioid epidemic, also puts their lives at risk.

“The dogs actually absorb things pretty quickly because their olfactory system is a little different than ours. So we’d notice the difference in our partners pretty quickly,” said Lt. Creed.

When dogs are exposed to opioids, they react much like people do: seeming sluggish, pinpoint pupils, vomiting, stumbling and with a slow respiratory rate.

Boston 25 News was there as K-9 officers with the Plymouth County Sheriff's Office trained on reviving their partners. 

They also showed us how departments are changing the way their drug-sniffing partners approach a scene, to keep them safe.

Instead of active searching that could disturb whatever drugs are on scene, K-9s take what’s called a passive detection technique.

“So the dog will actually sit or lay down and touch their nose to the source of odor to let us know that there’s something there that we should check,” Lt. Creed explained

Massachusetts State Police tell Boston 25 News, two of their K-9 officers were exposed to opioids, showed drug symptoms, then later recovered. 

In Plymouth county, they want to keep those K-9s safe, so they can keep fighting this battle.

“You are probably the only people who can honestly say that you work every day with a partner who you know would lay his life down for you,” said Sheriff MacDonald.

“We need to be prepared to make sure our dogs are as safe as possible. We ask a lot of our dogs, so we like to make sure they’re protected,” added Lt. Creed.

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