Sarasota deputies protecting their K-9s from exposure to heroin

Agencies across the country are taking precautions

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) —The heroin crisis that’s ravaging Florida is impacting some unlikely victims—K9 dogs.

A number of dogs throughout the state have gotten sick while responding to crime scenes and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is taking action.

This is a very real threat that Sarasota County deputies are worried about. Their K9s are considered family and they’re doing everything they can to keep them safe.

Deputy Brian Biegel spends every hour of every day with his K9 partner, Ryker. The two are always looking out for one another.

“They’re our family, they’re a law enforcement officer,” said Biegel.   And with this relationship, the dogs often face the same threats as their handlers.

Last year in Florida, three K9s were hospitalized after ingesting fentanyl-laced heroin.  Now agencies throughout the country, including in Sarasota, are taking more precautions.

“It’s a very very sad situation right now where we have to do this,” said Biegel.

If deputies bring a K-9 to a scene where heroin is present, the dogs have to sniff from a distance. Veterinarians say it’s important to keep the dogs away from the drug.

“Low doses would cause things like diarrhea, vomiting, maybe not wanting to eat. It could get more severe with that in higher doses, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, even up to being comatose,” said Dr. Edward Cole with the Gulf Gate Animal Hospital.

“It all depends on the purity,” Dr. Cole added.

Dr. Cole says Narcan can be given to the animals to reverse the effects of heroin.

“It’s got a pretty short duration of activity and depending on their dose that might need to be redosed and redosed several times,” explained Dr. Cole.

Sarasota deputies are also trained to provide immediate first aid to the animals. They would then need to call an ambulance to rush the dog to the nearest emergency vet.

“[Heroin] can be absorbed pretty quickly, so pretty important to get them there as soon as possible,” said Dr. Cole.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office takes this threat seriously because these dogs are just as important as any man or woman in uniform.

“The citizens, they look up to our dogs to help them out in their time of need so we have to ensure that the dogs go home safe at night,” said Biegel.

Deputies are hopeful that they’ll never have to use these steps but they have these precautions just in case.

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