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Wyoming Highway Patrol has new dog trained in detecting fentanyl

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Wyoming Highway Patrol
Reno safely detecting dangerous drug fentanyl from a series of drawers.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol announced a new addition to their K-9 unit. The new dog can locate the deadly drug fentanyl being trafficked on Wyoming highways. Her name is Reno and she is the first dog with the Wyoming Highway Patrol to be nationally certified in locating the dangerous drug.

In July of 2021, Reno uncovered 24 pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop in Laramie County - for perspective 2 milligrams can kill a person.

Lieutenant Josh Hardee is head of the K-9 unit for the highway patrol. He said drug sniffing dogs can cost up to $30,000 to train.

“We are definitely emerging into quite the epidemic for fentanyl, we have continual increase, month after month and year over year in fentanyl overdoses,” he said.

Hardee said that in June of 2021 Wyoming had around 30 overdoses and this June was about 60.

He said in training dogs to sniff out narcotics as poignant as fentanyl there is limited contact the dog has with the actual substance, and during deployment the handler has an extra responsibility to make sure the dog doesn’t come in direct contact with drugs cut with fentanyl.

“There's more hyper awareness or hyper vigilance by the handler. He knows now that, okay, I have a fentanyl trained dog and this car could have fentanyl in it. So, he has to take more precautions,” Hardee said.

Highway patrols Sergeant Jeremy Beck said they are seeing an increase of fentanyl being trafficked.

“So, the Wyoming Highway Patrol has been seeing more and more fentanyl, traveling through the state by our interstates and highways and troopers are coming in contact with that drug. Finding that on folks they encounter on a day to day basis,” he said.

The highway patrol now has 12, K-9 units to handle narcotics and explosives. Two for explosives and ten for marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and now fentanyl.

The officers said the plan is to grow the program to have more dogs like Reno trained in detecting the drug across the state.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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