Veterinarian offers free Narcan kits to area K-9 units

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Some law enforcement agencies in our area are getting a a life-saving drug. We're not just talking about the officers, but also, their K-9s.

Several departments are now equipped with Narcan, if their K-9s overdose on drugs, while investigating a scene.

Dr. Mark Riehl said several police departments reached out to him about three months ago, after they began coming across more dangerous drugs. So he put together kits of Narcan; and now, he's offering them to any K-9 unit in our region.

Andrew Walden has been working with Draco for a year. Together, they're one of five K-9 units at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

"We send them into a house, they're the first ones in," Walden said. "Searching a car, they do all the work."

But now, law enforcement agencies across our region say a simple search can become a lot more dangerous because of drugs like Carfentanil. It's 100 times stronger than street heroin; and it can be deadly after just one sniff or touch.

"It can easily be absorbed with just a few grains," Dr. Riehl said. "It can be enough to overdose a dog."

That's why Dr. Riehl is making these kits of Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

"There's an index card here to tell the officers how much to use," he explained.

Dr. Riehl works at the Animal Medical Clinic in Bristol, Tennessee. He volunteers his time to show officers how to use the drug. Then, the Airport Pet Emergency Clinic gives the kits to K-9 units for free.

Dr. Riehl said he hasn't seen a dog overdose on opioids yet, but he's not willing to take any chances.

"One dog lost is too many," he said. "It would be a serious blow to a department's ability."

Walden agreed; one of his top priorities is keeping Draco safe.

"With them being part of the family, we want to keep them safe just like we want to keep ourselves safe," Walden said. "We want to take them home at the end of the shift, just like we want to go home at the end of the shift."

Each kit costs around $200. Several departments already have the kits, including Bristol, Tennessee, Elizabethton and Kingsport.

Sullivan County deputies and their K-9s will be trained on Wednesday.