Statesboro and Bulloch County drug dogs will work a little safer after a recent donation of opioid antidote kits.
Ben Ross, who owns Forest Heights Pharmacy, donated 10 Narcan kits to the Georgia Police K9 Foundation after Statesboro police Officer and K9 handler Brice Scott asked about purchasing some of the life-saving kits.
“Some local K9s with the Statesboro Police Department and the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office (will have expired Narcan kits) replaced because of this extreme generosity,” said Statesboro police Cpl. Kyle Briley, who started the Georgia Police K9 Foundation. “Our newest (Statesboro police) K9 member, Smokey, will also get a Narcan kit. The other kits will go to K9s in need throughout the state, to include Perry Police Department.”
Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is used on humans as well as dogs and is “the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose,” according to www.narcan.com. It is available from pharmacists without a prescription and is covered by many insurance plans, the site says.
It was first designed for humans, and police officers have been keeping the kits handy to use for people suffering from opioid overdoses as well as for their own protection against accidental contact with dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (www.dea.com).
Fetanyl is often used to “cut” or dilute other illegal drugs, and due to its potency, it can be extremely dangerous.
But the drugs can be even more deadly for police dogs, which use their noses to search out illegal drugs, Briley said. Substances such as fentanyl and other toxic opioids affect dogs and humans in a similar way, and sometimes it is a matter of minutes that determine whether a person or dog will survive an accidental overdose. The drugs can cause an effect even if they are inhaled or absorbed through skin.
The Narcan kits, administered as soon as the overdose is realized, save lives, he said. “Naloxone … blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses within 2–5 minutes.”
While Briley is not aware of any recent encounters by local police or drug dogs, an online CBS report refers to a 2016 incident in which “three police dogs in Florida were rushed to an animal hospital … when they ingested fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that is often mixed with street heroin but 50 times more potent.”
Ross donated the 10 Narcan kits after learning the police K9s need the protection.
“I never thought about dogs needing Narcan,” he told the Statesboro Herald. “This is something we wanted to supply. We feel very strongly about this life-saving medication.”
Each kit includes one 2-milligram device, which is one dose, Briley said. After its use, “the K9 must still be seen by a veterinarian.”
The kits expire between one to two years and must be replaced for the dogs’ safety, he said.
Ross said opioids are a grave concern for both dogs and humans.
“The opiod epidemic takes tens of thousands of lives every year.”
Briley agreed, adding that police dogs are at a higher risk since they have a higher tendency to inhale the drugs.
“Unfortunately, we risk losing K9s to the drug epidemic during searches, and our goal is to have their handlers properly equipped in the case of emergencies,” he said. “Handlers are instructed to receive training from their local veterinarians on the proper use of this product.”
Statesboro police Chief Mike Broadhead expressed appreciation for the donation and stressed the importance of Narcan for both human and canine officers.
“In this day and age it is important that … officers carry Narcan for their K9 partners,” he said. “The dogs are in danger of overdosing if they come across some opiate material. The Narcan, which is administered to the dog through a nasal spray, can immediately alleviate the effects of the opiate temporarily. That will give the handler time to get the dog to a veterinarian to provide life-saving treatment. All of our officers carry Narcan to use on humans (including officers who get an accidental exposure), and we certainly extend that care and concern to our four-legged partners.”
Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown did not respond to requests for comments about the donation.
Ross said the Narcan kits, which come in pre-filled syringes, cost about $80 each. Nasal sprays for humans cost around $130 a dose.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.