Police dogs aren’t trained to detect the deadly drug fueling Maine overdoses

Drug-sniffing dogs are a powerful weapon in law enforcement’s battle against illegal narcotics. If a police officer pulls over someone’s vehicle, and a dog’s powerful nose picks up the scent of illicit substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, crack or cocaine, the officer can legally search the car without a warrant.

But the dominance of a newer, deadlier drug in Maine has introduced a challenge for law enforcement tools that primarily rely on their noses. Fentanyl, the highly potent synthetic opioid that’s fueling the state’s overdose death toll, has supplanted the street market for heroin, police say. And for safety and legal reasons, drug dogs are not trained to detect it.

“My sense is, yeah, it’s a huge issue,” said Kyle Heyen, a South Dakota-based working dog expert and former police dog handler. “It’s getting through. It’s all over.”

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