Primus, a hardworking member of the Broward County, FL Police department, overdosed after a drug raid. One of the detectives noticed he wasn’t moving and immediately tried to help him.
But Primus isn’t a regular colleague, he’s one of the K-9 dogs working alongside humans to help bust drug dealers. So what happened that day? Keep reading to find out more. If you need a drug and alcohol treatment center in Raleigh NC, please call Legacy Freedom for more information.
Why Are K-9 Police Dogs Overdosing?
The dog, who was working with two other K-9s, accidentally ingested one of the opioids he was sniffing out. The other two dogs, Packer and Finn, also ingested the drug. The drug was fentanyl, which is a synthetic ingredient that’s often mixed with heroin. It’s a powerful drug that causes overdoses and even death because of its potency. It’s the strongest opioid used medically in the U.S.
Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous synthetic drugs available. It has a rapid onset and is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used legally for chronic, severe pain, and during and after surgery. It has risen in illegal use popularity in recent years. It is often added to heroin, making it even more potent and even deadly.
Last fall, pop singer Prince died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Investigators believe that he had been taking the pills that were mislabeled as hydrocodone, another pain reliever. There has been an increase of the availability of the drug as well as an increase in it being mixed with other drugs. It has been nicknamed the “kill pill” because it is so potent and often sold on the streets to people who are unaware that it is fentanyl.
Before the drug raid, the house was searched for fentanyl before they sent in the dogs because the detectives are aware of the dangers. They did not find anything, so they thought it was safe. The handlers allowed Primus, Packer and Finn to enter the house to sniff out any hidden drugs. These drug detection dog are trained to use their keen sense of smell to detect illegal drugs. They can usually sniff out even small amounts of drugs.
After the raid Primus didn’t appear to be himself. One of the detectives on the case, Andy Weiman, knew something was wrong when the dog wasn’t his usual energetic self. He seemed lethargic and his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. His breathing seemed to have slowed and he didn’t seem focused on anything. Weiman suspected it was an overdose.
Primus was quickly taken to the emergency room, where he had to be carried in. He was given naloxone, which is the opioid antidote used when humans overdose. It can reverse an overdose if it is given in time. The other two dogs also began showing symptoms of overdose, so they were treated, too.
The dangers in having dogs sniff out certain drugs is that some forms can get into the dog’s system through their noses or their paw pads. The drug is absorbed through the mucus membranes in their nose or through their paw pads and is sent directly to their bloodstream.
The detectives on the case have determined that fentanyl powder remnants were in the house, but not visible. The dogs were doing their job when they sniffed it out, but unfortunately in the process they were exposed to it. Luckily, the detectives acted quickly and all three dogs were treated and released.
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The case in Broward County was the first of its kind, but it prompted the department to take precautions to prevent this from happening in the future. The dog handlers are trained in how to manage the K-9 dogs, and now they have started training to protect the dogs and know the signs of an overdose.
When human officers enter a house, they protect themselves by wearing gloves and, in some cases, masks to avoid inhaling substances. They are discouraged from touching anything that resembles a drug so they won’t accidentally ingest it.
Dogs aren’t the only ones accidentally ingesting drugs while on the job. Last fall SWAT officers in Washington, D.C. were exposed to fentanyl during a drug raid. The raw drug became airborne after they seized 50,000 bags of heroin laced with it. The suspects may have thrown the drugs in their faces as a defensive act, or they may have swept it off a table. The substance clouded the air and the officers had to move through it in order to complete the raid. Some experienced mild symptoms but none were harmed and they all returned to work the next day.
In another case, detectives in New Jersey were exposed to a mix of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine during a bust in the summer of 2015.
The incidents involving both humans and dogs have prompted the DEA to release a video warning of the dangers of being exposed to drugs during raids. In the video, officers are told that even a small amount that is absorbed through the skin could be enough to kill. They warn that officers should not test the drug or open it if it’s sealed. It should be taken back to the laboratory where it can be handled safely. They warn that even a small amount can be inhaled during handling.
Many officers now take naloxone, the opioid antidote, along with them in case it’s needed. There is also a k-9 overdose kit available, which has the tools needed for a various overdose situations. It does not include naloxone or any other drug.
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