The RCMP are the first police force in the world to train their dogs in detecting fentanyl.
Members of the media got to see that training firsthand during a demonstration at the RCMP Police Dog Services training facility near Innisfail on Tuesday.
“We developed this technique within the RCMP – nobody else in the world has done this,” said Insp. Akrum Ghadban, officer in charge of the RCMP Police Dog Services Training Centre. “We’ve been working with other police forces within Canada and around the world. In fact, just last month, we had a training session here with our American partners as well as partners from Mexico. It is something that we’re sharing because what we do is save lives and it does us no good to hoard secrets. It’s something that we want out there in the world.”
Across the country, 135 police dogs have been trained to detect fentanyl, an opioid about 100 times more toxic than morphine which can cause serious harm or even death. Two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dosage – the equivalent of two grains of salt, according to officials.
The detection technique developed by the RCMP includes mixing 2 mgs of fentanyl that is 90-100% purity and 120 mls of sterile, distilled water. The powder is dropped into the water, sealed and shaken until the powder is dissolved. Ten drops of the mixture is then placed on a makeup remover pad for the dog to indirectly smell.
The dogs are trained to search for the drug and then sit in front of the area they have detected it as a signal to their handler.
Ghadban said the training is helping to make their dogs and handlers safer on the streets.
“Before we had this technique, dogs would go out in the world – they were coming across fentanyl every day and not realizing it. Now that they can detect fentanyl, they provide that positive sit confirmation where they won’t pursue the source,” he said. “Once our dogs are trained, you saw today how quickly they pick it up and how quickly they retain it. We are expecting big things to come.”
He added the training is working as evidenced by the recent seizure of 12,000 tablets in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
Kathleen Ganley, minister of justice and solicitor general, was also on hand for the demonstration.
“Training Police Service Dogs to detect fentanyl is an example of how the RCMP is continuing to focus and address urgent issues facing law enforcement organizations and the communities they serve and protect. Police alone are not responsible for combating the opioid crisis, but this initiative will save lives and likely already has. Training Police Service Dogs to detect fentanyl will help authorities intercept this deadly drug before it makes it on our streets.”