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Opioids: A Threat to Animal Welfare & Safety - Archival
The opioid crisis has impacted animal welfare and safety several ways. This webinar reviewed the risks to pets of opioid abusers and working K9s and made recommendations to help keep K9s safe, including risk mitigation and emergency preparation.
Original Live Webinar took place on 8/29/2017.

The complex and evolving opioid epidemic has devastated lives, families and communities. As with any other social ill, where people are at risk of harm, so are animals. The opioid epidemic presents a “triple-threat” to animal welfare and safety.

 - Pets belonging to people with opioid use disorder (addiction) may suffer from consequences of their human caretakers to provide adequate care (starvation or other forms of neglect).
 - Some addicts have deliberately harmed their animals in an effort to obtain narcotic drugs from a veterinarian.
 - Accidental exposure of pets and working K9s to opioid substances through ingestion or inhalation is increasing in frequency. 

Working K9s are especially at risk to sniff and ingest drugs causing a possible overdose. “Anecdotally we’ve seen more stories about working dogs being exposed to dangerous, illegally obtained opioids, but we don’t have any statistics to show how often this is happening, or if it’s actually happening more often, or it’s just an increase in awareness and reporting,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s spokesman Michael San Filippo. Anyone working with K9s in setting where they may be accidentally exposed to an opioid substance should be prepared to treat the emergency.

The increasing amounts of ultra-potent illicit narcotics such as fentanyl and carfentanil have contributed to the potential of "occult" accidental overdoses of working K9s. Because toxic doses of these substances are so small, the exposure itself may not be observed when it happens. Signs of opioid exposure in animals include: stumbling or “walking drunk”, staring into the distance, failure to respond to commands, vomiting, pinpoint pupils, severe sedation, slowed respiratory rate, slowed heart rate, coma, respiratory arrest and death.

K9 officers can prepare themselves to assist their four-footed partners in such an emergency, but it is important to remember that an opioid exposed K9 is also potentially an opioid contaminated K9. Personal protection equipment should be used when working on a potentially opioid exposed animal. In addition to administering Narcan, there are steps to take while en-route to the emergency veterinary hospital that will increase survival. This webinar reviewed steps to take in to protect your own safety while also taking lifesaving action when an animal has an opioid exposure emergency. 

Detailed Learning Objectives:

•	Learn about the common animal maltreatment (neglect and abuse) cases that are being seen resulting from the opioid crisis; 

•	Learn steps to take to reduce the risk of opioid exposure in working K9s including emergency preparation with Narcan kits and other safety equipment. 

•	Learn to recognize the signs of opioid intoxication in dogs and steps to take in an emergency.

This webinar was recorded in its entirety at the time of the Live event in order to capture the one on one interaction with the presenter.  Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence event has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.


Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore
A veterinarian experienced in animal welfare, emergency veterinary medicine and animal cruelty investigations, Dr. Smith-Blackmore has a special interest in working K9 safety. She is a member of the IACP forensic science committee; the president of a veterinary forensics consulting group; an adjunct professor at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a Fellow at the Center for Animals and Public Policy in North Grafton, Massachusetts.