Fentanyl, a potentially deadly opioid on the rise in East Tennessee, is posing a threat to law enforcement officers and their canines.
Because of the dangers behind the drug, the Loudon County Sheriff's Office is one of many agencies making sure both man and dog have naloxone at all times. The drug is proven to save lives by halting overdose effects associated with most opioids.
Sergeant Michael Watkins and Kane, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, are partners at the Loudon County Sheriff's Office who are training to tackle fentanyl in the safest way possible.
"We are seeing it regularly weekly, I don't know if we are seeing it daily yet but we are certainly seeing it weekly," said Paul Curtis, the Assistant Chief Deputy for the sheriff's office.
"This exposure could happen so here at the sheriff's office, our supervisors and K-9 officers have naloxone, the Narcan, in case we get an accidental exposure," Curtis shared.
Sgt. Watkins carries two doses of the nasal spray naloxone in case he needs to save a human's life, but also in case he needs to save Kane.
"We checked with our veterinarian and went through the process with him and recommended doing that and that's the program we are following," Curtis added.
Along with carrying the life saving drug, the county's officers are taking extra precautions.
"We've really stepped up our training with our officers to be very careful with unknown powders whether it's on a traffic stop of someone's home," he added.
Their deputies are not handling unknown powders anymore. They either bag them up immediately or leave them in the container they were found in, then the narcotics unit is called to handle the rest.
It's the extra steps that will keep these officers safe, whether they wear a badge -- or a collar.
Curtis, a K-9 instructor for more than 14 years, also trains K-9s at Lakeview K9 Services in Loudon.