**Story written by Kirsten Dennis of rdnewsnow.com**
The use of canine companions is not new to the RCMP, but the ability to use them to detect fentanyl is.
In a demonstration Tuesday at the Police Dog Service Training Centre at Innisfail, members of both the RCMP and the Clandestine Lab Enforcement And Response Team (CLEAR) shred a progress update in the fight against the opioid crisis.
Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, said the RCMP has been a steadfast partner in the work to keep Alberta communities safe.
“Training police 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,” said Ganley.
She added that this initiative will continue to save lives, as it potentially already has after the seizure of 12,000 fentanyl tablets in B.C. earlier this year.
Training the dogs to detect fentanyl is a critical step in the protection of both citizens and EMS personnel from accidental contact with the deadly drug, added Ganley.
Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer Todd Shean said the RCMP’s first priority is always the safety and security of the citizens they serve.
“[This] is why we are proud to have led the way in providing fentanyl detection training to our police dog services,” said Schean, adding that from January 1 to June 30 of this year, Alberta Health Services reports 241 fentanyl related deaths in the province.
In November of 2015 the RCMP teamed up with CLEAR to come up with a way to combat fentanyl. Inspector Akrum Ghadban, officer in charge of the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre, said at that time, nobody in the world could detect fentanyl with their police dog service.
“We dedicated resources and came up with a solution for that. We came up with a method that employs diluting fentanyl into a sterile liquid which prevents the forming of airborne particles which are not only deadly to humans, but to our dogs,” added Ghadban.
The method trains the dogs to alert their handler to fentanyl using a positive sit confirmation.
“Before we had this technique dogs would go out into the world coming across fentanyl and not even realizing it…They won’t aggress or pursue the sources so they’re actually keeping the dogs and handlers safer.”
He added that while they were the “first out of the gate” to come up with this training method, they are actively working with their partners not only in Canada but around the world to share the information.
“It’s something that we are sharing because what we do is save lives and it does us no good to hoard secrets. It’s something we want out there,” said Ghadban.
There are currently 135 trained fentanyl detection teams (dog/handler) across Canada.
Constable Jason Wells with CLEAR helped to demonstrate the method by which they develop the solution for use in the fentanyl detection. CLEAR is based out of Edmonton and serves Alberta and Northwest Territories.
Dog and handler teams across Canada will be provided with a training kit from CLEAR including a sample of the mixed fentanyl solution and the distilled water used to mix it. The pads they can use for training and the pipettes to measure will also be included.
Staff Sergeant and senior trainer Gary Creed said while very few of the teams have the kits at this point, they are in the process of ensuring they have them by the end of the year.
“The CLEAR team is in the process of creating more kits, not all teams will have them because they’ll train in pairs,” said Creed, who added the kits are essential in the continued training for the dogs and handlers to ensure that the deadly drug can continue to be detected and removed from the streets.