Man’s best friend is one of the devastating deaths from the opioid epidemic. In an article published April 20, CNN reported that police dogs are killed by sniffing fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times more effective than morphine. While there are no completed studies of police dog deaths from fentanyl or an active database, statistics exist on police dog deaths from exposure to other drugs. For example, 35 police dogs died on duty in 2016; Some of these could have resulted from exposure to opioid drugs.
Jane Desmond, a professor at the University of Illinois who studies anthropology, wrote the CNN article. Desmond argued that if lawmakers, law enforcement, and first responders work together, these deaths can be prevented or occur less frequently, citing laws and activism that have taken place in Illinois. On August 15, 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law specifically allowing police dogs to be transported to veterinary clinics in ambulances. However, this comes with the condition that these dogs not be transported when people require the use of available ambulances.
In addition, Dr. Maureen McMichael and Dr. Ashley Mitek of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Instructions for Treating Dogs Exposed to Drugs such as Fentanyl, entitled Working Dog Treat and Transport Protocol. This protocol provides instructions on how to clean a dog’s airway, emphasize the importance of getting overdosed dogs to a veterinarian immediately, and administering Narcan to canines.
Other states besides Illinois have taken steps to protect police dogs from fatal overdoses. For example, as of June 2017, Massachusetts State Police staff will keep naloxone for their canine partners in case they are exposed to fentanyl. Hartford City Police also consider naloxone to be police dogs due to its direct exposure, according to deputy chief Brian Foley in an interview with CBS News.