The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office utilizes their K-9 officers in many ways, but one of their primary tasks is detecting dangerous drugs, and the work can be dangerous, especially when the dogs inhale harmful substances like fentanyl.

Jeremy Meader is the commander of the K-9 program, and explains the measures taken to protect the two K-9 officers, Loki and Santxo.

“One of the issues that have come to light is the use of fentanyl to mix with other drugs like heroin,” said Meader. “That poses an extreme danger to the dogs as far as the particulates they can inhale and overdose from that. As part of the announcement that we’re dealing with that, we’re trying to prepare our canines if that were ever to happen to prevent them from being injured or even killed.”

Meader said the dog’s handlers have been specially trained to respond if the dogs or other human officers are affected by the drugs.

“Our master trainers have been instructed on how to use Narcan nasal spray to the dogs once they’ve been exposed to those opiates,” he said. “The drug can be used to treat other law enforcement officers if necessary.”

Meader said the dogs are specifically trained to detect drugs.

“The primary responsibility for the dogs is nose-related, so they’re always smelling for either objects or narcotics, so it’s very important to protect them as they use their noses so much.”

Deputies Ross Jessup and Justin Uriarte are their handlers, and the dogs live with the officers and their families.