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Another Chapter in Cops’ False Narrative That Mere Contact With Fentanyl Is Deadly – Cleveland Police K-9 Given NARCAN After Fentanyl Exposure

by Jo Ellen Nott

A police K-9 involved in the execution of a search warrant for a 27-year-old drug trafficking suspect on March 15, 2023, in Cleveland, Ohio, was given NARCAN after an exposure to fentanyl.   The unnamed K-9 was taken to Westpark Animal Hospital where he was found to be “ok.”

Based on a misinformation campaign started in 2016 by the Drug Enforcement Agency and spread through respectable channels such as the DOJ, the National Police Foundation and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, law enforcement nationwide embraced the unscientific claim that getting fentanyl on your skin and even breathing it can be lethal for cops. 

Toxicology experts say it simply is not so, but police continue to perpetuate the false narrative that they can overdose simply by touching fentanyl.  They are casting their canine partners as victims, too.

In May 2022, co-founder and chair of the Central Indiana K-9 Association Corporal Kyle Schaefer said “when searching vehicles for drugs, humans have their skin as a barrier and often use gloves. But dogs use their nose, and they can easily inhale fentanyl and absorb it directly into their bloodstream.”

Internet searches reveal that not long after the 2016 DEA campaign about the toxicity of fentanyl on the skin or the ease of inhaling it, many sources were advocating the use of NARCAN for K-9s.  Purdue University, the National Institute of Corrections, the American Veterinary Medical Association, CBS, and NBC, among others, were ramping up the viral discussion of how to protect police dogs from fentanyl overdoses. 

On the counterpoint, medical toxicologist Dr. Ryan Marino said to Vice News “it’s very unlikely that a dog would overdose on fentanyl and it would have to eat fentanyl for that to happen.” Marino and other medical experts have repeatedly discredited the notion that a person can overdose from touching or being near fentanyl.

Regarding K-9s, Marino said dogs have a much higher tolerance for the drug than humans because of the way they metabolize it. Marino added “touching it, even sniffing near it, they would be very unlikely to inhale … enough of a dose to have any effect.” Marino also told Vice News that in the Cleveland case it “sounded like it was totally unnecessary.”  

Marino finds the narrative that people are trying to pretend K-9s are overdosing from fentanyl “bizarre.” He points out that “it pulls on the heartstrings of the people who, at the end of the day, are voting and making decisions.”

Sources:  Cleveland 19, Fox59 Indianapolis, MSN, Vice News 

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