Medford police looking to fight fentanyl epidemic with trained K-9’s

MEDFORD, Ore. – The Medford Police Department has the first K-9’s trained in detecting fentanyl in the state.

These K-9’s are not only the first to detect fentanyl in the state but possibly one of the first programs in the country.

It’s all thanks to MPD’s K-9 handler who wanted to get his dog’s certified.

“We’re trying to fight and combat this battle of fentanyl and it’s at epidemic levels,” Medford K-9 officer Robert Havice said.

The fight to curtail the fentanyl epidemic is taking a big step forward in Medford.

The Medford Police Department has the first K-9’s trained in detecting fentanyl in the state.

Havice decided about nine months ago he would get both his dogs certified to sniff out the dangerous drug.

“As a state k-9 trainer I had to kind of develop a program and kind of just went out and did a lot of it on my own and doing the research and such,” he said.

Havice found a company that was able to provide resources to safely train the dogs.

He says he developed the program because no other police K-9 association in the country had dogs trained to find fentanyl.

That’s why Havice believes MPD is one of the first in the country to do this.

“I reached out to the other policy K-9 associations across the U.S. to find out if any of them are certifying in fentanyl and I couldn’t find one,” he said. “No one had done one yet, they had not found a safe way to do it. And just had not developed a program.”

The K-9’s have already been out assisting MPD in the field for about a month finding large quantities of the drug.

But both Nacho and Max have been sniffing out various drugs in the city for years.

Don’t worry though, Havice says it isn’t dangerous for them.

“They’ve already been sniffing these odors for several years,” he said. “Because we’ve been coming in contact with fentanyl out on the streets while we’re looking for other drugs. It hasn’t caused any harm to them.”

The hope is these trained K-9’s will help reduce fentanyl use in Medford.

“Our initial goal is to just serve the community better,” Havice said. “Take more fentanyl off the streets where will in turn save lives and that’s the goal of the city. Serving the community, saving lives, making it safer on the streets of Medford.”

Havice said they’ve already received calls from other police departments about this.

He said they are open to helping others develop their own program to certify more K-9s.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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