Local pharmacy provides police K-9 with life-saving drug

Brunswick Police Sgt. Matthew Wilson’s partner in fighting crime is also his best friend. Rico joins Wilson on every patrol and goes home with him at the end of each shift.

Recently, the Brunswick Police Department took steps to ensure that Rico and the other members of the force’s four K-9 teams will continue going home with their human partners after a busy day on the beat.

The department last month secured for their K-9s a dog’s dosage of naloxone, the potentially life-saving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses in humans. The threat of ill effects from contact with illegal street drugs is a growing problem in law enforcement, particularly with the emergence of the powerful opioid fentanyl, typically produced as a transdermal patch.
But police were happily surprised when they went to pick up the dogs’ naxolone prescription from the pharmacy at Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Altama Avenue. The pharmacy waived the hefty price for the drug, which can run up to $300, Wilson said.

“Wal-Mart actually donated it, free — at no cost to the taxpayer,” Wilson said. “They said it was a special, for the dogs.”

A friendly pharmacist at the Wal-Mart downplayed the act of kindness when contacted Friday.

“It was more of a good Samaritan thing,” she said, requesting anonymity.

The chance of an overdose from contact with illegal street drugs is no longer far-fetched. And it is not a chance these police officers care to take with their beloved K-9 partners. Because fentanyl is applied directly to a patient’s skin, it has created medical emergencies for police officers across the nation in the past year. The nation’s rising heroin trade has created the demand for fentanyl, which is cut with heroin to cut drug dealers’ overhead.

An entire SWAT team required emergency medical treatment after a raid in Pennsylvania. It presents a threat to police dogs as well. Three dogs from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida were rushed to an animal hospital last October after coming in contact with fentanyl during a raid.

Dogs are at an even much greater risk, simply because they search with their noses, Wilson said. They are more likely to come in immediate contact with fentanyl, not to mention the risk of ingesting cocaine and other dangerous drugs.
“The work they do, their nose is always being put on different odors,” Wilson said. “Their exposure tendency is a lot higher, so this gives us a weapon to prevent that.”

Getting the drug for dogs required a prescription from the police department’s veterinarian at Golden Isles Animal Hospital. The drug comes in a syringe and is stored under refrigeration at police headquarters.

And fentanyl is not just a problem in places like Atlanta and Jacksonville, Wilson noted. Brunswick police responded to a domestic disturbance at K and Johnston streets last month, only to discover one of the men on scene trying to hide something in his hand. It was fentanyl, according to a police report. In addition to being mixed with heroin, some take the extremely powerful opioid directly, either chewing the patches or injecting the gel, Wilson said.

“A lot of people believe it’s a big-city problem and that it’s not in Brunswick,” he said. “But it’s happening here and we’re running into fentanyl quite a bit. With this drug for our K-9s, we can counteract that exposure. It buys us time to get them to the vet for emergency treatment.”

The other Brunswick Police K-9 teams are: Lt. Donald Babbin and Enzo, officer Cliff Partidge and Bob and officer Martin Davis and Kilo.