Cops Gave a K9 Narcan After Fentanyl Exposure. It Was ‘Totally Unnecessary.’

Police are now dragging their dogs in the widely debunked idea that simply touching fentanyl can cause an overdose.
A K-9 police dog (Creative Commons)

Cops continue to double down on the false idea that they can overdose simply from touching fentanyl—and now they’re pulling their dogs into the ruse. 

Cleveland police say a K-9 involved in executing a drug trafficking search warrant had to be given Narcan, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses, after being exposed to fentanyl, according to Cleveland 19 News. 


Cleveland police did not immediately respond to VICE News’ questions asking for evidence that the dog had fentanyl in its system. 

Medical toxicologist Dr. Ryan Marino, however, said it’s “very unlikely” that a dog would overdose on fentanyl and they would have to eat fentanyl for that to happen. Marino and other medical experts have repeatedly debunked the idea that a person can overdose from touching or being near fentanyl and reiterated that someone would need to snort, inject, or otherwise deliberately ingest fentanyl to overdose from it.

“Touching it, even sniffing near it, they would be very unlikely to inhale … enough of a dose to have any effect,” Marino said, adding dogs have a much higher tolerance for the drug than humans because of the way they metabolize it. 

While Marino said he supports giving Narcan to anyone having a suspected overdose, in this case, it sounds like it was “totally unnecessary.” 

Marino said the case is “disturbing” because it shows that some first responders don’t know what an overdose looks like, even though they’re the ones responding to them. People (or dogs) who are overdosing would potentially be unconscious, have shallow breathing, or stop breathing. 

Law enforcement agencies have been exaggerating claims about fentanyl exposure for years, even publishing videos of police officers supposedly overdosing. One of those videos was removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for mischaracterizing the risks to cops, according to MedPage Today. Marino previously told VICE News some of the symptoms officers exhibit in the videos are more consistent with a panic attack than an overdose. 


This isn’t the only time police have raised concerns about their dogs being exposed to fentanyl. 

Last year, Lexington, Kentucky police said one of their K-9s had to be given Narcan and taken to the vet after it “came into contact with fentanyl.” Some veterinary groups have released guidelines about giving Narcan to dogs while a company called Good Air Team has marketed its mask for dogs as a way to protect them from opioid exposure. 

Marino said it’s “bizarre” that people are trying to pretend dogs are overdosing from fentanyl on a widespread basis. 

“It's a popular narrative and pulls on the heartstrings of the people who, at the end of the day, are voting and making decisions,” he said. 

Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas division tweeted photos of agents giving high school students a presentation on the dangers of fentanyl. One of the agents was wearing a hazmat suit. 

Marino said tons of people use illicit fentanyl and if they really needed hazmat suits to handle it, “we’d be seeing people dropping dead all around us.” 

A DEA official said the portion of the presentation featuring someone in a protective suit was specific to clandestine lab clean-ups, where unknown substances might be present.

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