K9 drug training: Protecting police dogs

HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) – With bad batches of heroin circulating in Columbia County, officers are worried about exposure for their K9s.

“She goes to work with me and also goes home with me, so we’re very close. The bond is very close you know and she basically is there to protect me,” Deputy Travis Vanalstyne, of the Columbia County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, said.

K9 officer Kiera and Vanalstyne are inseparable. With a dangerous batch of heroin that officials believe could have lead to nearly a dozen overdoses and three deaths in just one day last month in the county, Vanalstyne is on high alert.

Police believe the heroin is possibly laced with fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and now carfentanyl, a drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Deputy Vanalstyne doesn’t want Kiera coming in contact with the deadly mixtures.

“I’m more concerned for her because her sense of smell is 12 times more. She can inhale that quite a bit.”

K9 Apollo also at risk while on the job, while sniffing out drugs.

“Every time you put out a drug find or have to search a car we’re concerned,” Apollo’s partner Deputy Heath Benansky said.  “So it’s just like a big vacuum cleaner so if there’s anything loose that’s around they will pick it up.”

Benansky says he’s prepared if Apollo is exposed to a deadly dose. Officers usually use Narcan on overdose patients but K9’s like Kiera and Apollo might need it too one day. They can use the nasal spray Narcan for the dogs or an injection.

“When they do locate it, obviously we have to make sure that they can’t get into it as best as we can.”

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