America’s growing opioid crisis isn’t only impacting people – it’s also causing police K9s to overdose. As a precaution, as I wrote in July, some police dog handlers across the country now carry naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. However, many police departments don’t have the budget to provide K9s with these lifesaving drugs.
To help save the lives of police dogs, Nate King of Texas founded the nonprofit K9s of Valor last year, which provides, free of charge, naloxone, trauma kits, vehicle heat alarms and K9 care packages to police departments. He took the time to answer some questions about this organization.
What inspired you to start K9s of Valor?
Ever since I was a young child, it has always been my dream to become a police officer and I have always had a love for dogs. I am currently a police dispatcher and in the process of becoming an officer. Several years ago, I rescued a German shepherd, Zeus. Our bond was exactly the close bond that K9 handlers have with their partners – indescribable, really. Having Zeus increased my passion for wanting to become a K9 officer.
In January 2016, K9 Jethro with the Canton, Ohio Police Department was shot and killed in the line of duty after entering a local business on a burglary-in-progress call. For the next few weeks, I researched how we can help keep police K9s safe.
I found that police departments do not have the proper budget for K9 units. K9 officers have to rely on the community donating or, more often than not, the officers are paying for the supplies out of their own pocket.
K9s of Valor was launched to help keep police K9 officers safe by providing lifesaving equipment at no charge to law enforcement. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that’s completely run by volunteers who have a love for dogs and keeping these courageous officers safe.
What is K9s of Valor doing to help protect these dogs?
K9s of Valor donates lifesaving equipment such as trauma kits and naloxone overdose kits to police K9 units across the country at no cost to officers. If the K9 or officer is exposed to dangerous opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, a naloxone overdose kit will reverse the effects of the overdose. Both of these opioids are extremely deadly — just the touch or exposure of the drug can lead to an overdose. The naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist and reverses the actions of opioids.
How soon after you started K9s of Valor did you begin getting requests for naloxone overdose kits?
The requests did not start until August 2017, and the reason was the skyrocketing increase of heroin overdoses in the country. Officers are seeing overdoses every day and coming in contact with these dangerous drugs.
Have these requests been increasing?
Our requests for naloxone kits started coming in slowly, until more and more departments started hearing about our donations. In the beginning, we would receive on average two to three requests a week. Now we receive two to three requests almost every day from K9 officers across the country.
We continue to get requests for trauma kits, and dozens of departments are interested in vehicle heat alarms. We still assist as often as we can with these, but our focus right now is naloxone kits due to so many departments in need and very few nonprofit organizations assisting with these.
What is being done to protect police dogs from overdosing?
Officers across the country are changing the way they conduct searches. Some will not send their dog to freely search the area. For example, on a traffic stop, if the K9 alerts on the outside of a vehicle, the officer may not have their dog search inside the car. Instead the officer will scan the area and search by hand. With searching houses, if the officer believes fentanyl or heroin is involved, some will not even allow the K9 to be involved and will search it by hand as well.
Dogs get much closer to the narcotics, so officers are paying extremely close attention. A touch or simply breathing in the smallest amount of fentanyl or heroin — the amount of a few grains of salt — can lead to an overdose. Officers are much more cautious because of these dangerous drugs on the rise.