Lifesaving drug available for K-9s fighting the opioid epidemic

MARYSVILLE, Wash. -- The opioid epidemic is changing the way law enforcement is battling illegal drugs on our streets. Officers are now protecting themselves from accidental overdoses and that includes their K-9 partners.

His keen sense of smell can sniff out illegal drugs in a matter of seconds.

Kilo is the K-9 on the Snohomish Regional Drug & Gang Task Force.

“We treat him just like we would treat any other detective in our unit,” Lt. Robert Goetz said.

Meaning the dog has the same access to Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Even just a year ago, Narcan wouldn’t have been necessary for Kilo and his handler but fentanyl, a powerful opioid, changed that.

“It’s only been in the last six months or so that we’ve really seen an uptick,” Goetz said.

More powerful and deadly than heroin, fentanyl can cause someone who simply touches enough of it to have an overdose.

“Most of what we are seeing is white powder form, if a child was to pick it up touch it on the ground,” Sgt. Vince Linnell said.

That’s why every narcotics seizure is important but the work is more dangerous to law enforcement and K-9s like Kilo who are the first to come in contact with the potentially deadly drug.

In 2016, at least 70 deaths were caused by Fentanyl overdoses in Washington, according to the state health department.

In Snohomish County, they have a new approach. During every drug seizure, they have a separate officer who is on standby with Narcan, soley for the purpose of giving the lifesaving antidote to Kilo or the handler if they need it.

“Most of our officers in the field are not even field testing those drugs. We are packaging them up and sending them to the lab,” Goetz said.

Law enforcement in Snohomish County is worried about the growing popularity of fentanyl, especially with the drug saturating Vancouver, Canada.

“Talking to their agents up there, there is no heroin -- it’s almost all fentanyl,” Linnell said.

“Because of the proximity of our border it’s only a matter of time,” Goetz said.

Goetz says stopping it entirely will be a challenge but he says the task force will do whatever it can to seize the illegal opioids in our community.

And Kilo will be on the front lines of that fight.

So far this year, Kilo has worked 30 scenes, seizing 10 pounds of heroin and $100,000 in cash.