PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A law enforcement agency in northern Arizona has a new weapon in the fight against fentanyl.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office recently acquired a K9 that can sniff out the deadly drug.
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Many other drug dogs cannot detect fentanyl because training the K9s to do so can be dangerous and potentially deadly for the animal and the handler.
“We’re trying to come up with a method of certification,” says Sgt. Jarrod Winfrey with YCSO. “We need to make sure that our safety is being taken seriously and that our dogs are correct."
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“Haddie” is a 3-year-old German shepherd purchased from the Canadian Mounted Police, which has a system for training K9s to detect fentanyl. Winfrey says the Sheriff’s Office is now creating its own training program based off of the Canadian program.
The ultimate goal is to develop training that can be shared with other Arizona law enforcement agencies. Right now, federal agencies like Customs and Border Protection have dogs that detect fentanyl.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office says deputies are finding more fentanyl on the streets, most of it seized during traffic stops.
“We just had that 10-pound meth load with 501 pills,” says Winfrey.
Some fentanyl is discovered after K9s alert to other drugs, says Winfrey.
Because fentanyl can be deadly to dogs and deputies, law enforcement has to take extra precautions when conducting searches.
Dep. Steven Warburton says it takes constant training to make sure Haddie keeps her senses sharp and her alerts clear and correct. Warburton says before allowing Haddie to search a vehicle, he conducts his own careful search to limit the possibility of accidental exposure to fentanyl.
“Something you may pass off as a couple grains of something sitting on a seat would be enough to make my dog overdose,” says Warburton.