A donation from a local family will help the sheriff’s office’s K-9 handlers breathe a little easier.
As stories pop up across the country of officers and K-9s suffering opioid overdoses during investigations, the local community has stepped up to help prevent one of those stories from happening here, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic in Florida.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that the Hynton family purchased eight kits of an overdose reversal drug, naloxone — commonly known by its brand name, Narcan — from the Desoto Animal Clinic and donated them to the K-9 unit.
The clinic also provided one kit, along with training on how to administer the drug to the dogs.
Each kit cost $134.
We’re just thrilled they stepped forward with this. This is something we’ve heard about in other areas, where K-9s have come into contact with dangerous narcotics,” sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said. “I think it puts handlers more at ease to know they have something they can administer.”
The dogs are trained to use their acute sense of smell to track down drugs, but with that can come the danger of contact with heroin or other powerful opioids.
A near-incident last year opened the sheriff’s office’s eyes to the need.
A K-9 possibly came into contact with heroin and officials rushed the dog to a clinic for treatment. Though they’re still not sure what the dog came into contact with, it was a wake-up call.
“We talked about this for some time with the sheriff’s department,” said James A. Kanzler, director and founder of Desoto Animal Clinic. “They didn’t have it in their budget.”
So Kanzler’s practice donated one Narcan dose to the sheriff’s office “some time ago.”
“But they always wanted enough for each officer, so one of our clients came through,” Kanzler said.
Last year, three Florida police dogs were taken to an animal hospital after ingesting fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than morphine, according to CBS News. Police in Massachusetts have already started carrying naloxone for the K-9s.
A police officer in Ohio nearly died of an overdose after coming into contact with suspected fentanyl after patting down a suspect, according to CBS News.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 unit has not had any dogs become sick from exposure to opioids, but says they will now be prepared in case the situation arises.
Kanzler said that dogs and humans have similar reactions to opioids and the overdose reversal drug. The receptor sites in the brain that the opioids attach to are similar in dogs and humans so the effects — the effect of the Narcan — are similar.
“Thank goodness they can have that available, I hope they never need it,” Kanzler said.
Manatee County K-9s aren’t the only ones getting an extra layer of protection Tuesday.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced that their five K-9s will receive bullet and stab protective vests thanks to a donation from Vested Interest in K9s Inc, a non-profit organization. The vests will be embroidered with messages in memory of K-9s killed in Ohio and California and are expected to arrive in eight to 10 weeks.