Powerful drugs raising danger for K9 officers across Valley

PHOENIX - Arizona State Troopers are trained to give their K9s a drug typically administered to overdosing heroin addicts, because of the increasing presence of dangerous narcotics.

Police dogs like 6-year-old Joke (pronounced Yo-key) chases bad guys and sniffs out drugs.  The sniffing may be the more dangerous one, since more powerful opioid drugs, including Fentanyl, are being trafficked across the state. Police dogs in other states had severe reactions after accidental exposure.

"As much as you can control your actions yourself, it's very hard to control an animal that's on the end of a six-foot lead," said Joke's handler, Trooper Casey Yartym. 

Looking out for the safety of their K9s, Arizona's Department of Public Safety has included Naloxone, also known as Narcan, in their canine first aid kits. Every K9 handler keeps one. In an emergency, the trooper would inject the dog with the drug. Police departments in Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert also keep canine Narcan on hand. 

"In case the dog sniffs something that it shouldn't have or got too close, if it actually inhaled Fentanyl, we could use it to save the dog," said Col. Frank Milstead, Director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. 

DPS and many other law enforcement agencies are also worried about officer exposure to opioids, and they have stopped field-testing suspected drugs.

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