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Kansas State Highway Patrol training K-9s to help with fentanyl detection

Posted at 6:44 PM, Sep 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-08 14:17:35-04

VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s Megan Abundis

The Kansas Highway Patrol has turned to K-9s to sniff out synthetic drugs.

KSHB 41’s Megan Abundis went to Topeka to show how the patrol is leading the way in the practice.

In Kansas, dogs are trained to detect cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and now — fentanyl.

“[It's] Up 984%,” Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Dennis Shoemaker said referring to overdoses.

The patrol says that’s the increase of Kansas overdoses from 2017-2022; it was enough for them to change what they were doing surrounding fentanyl.

“It’s huge, I mean that’s dramatic,” Shoemaker said. “When you start seeing that and it’s been going on not only the last six months, but for the last few years, you have to develop a game plan on how can we help save lives.”

KHP Lt. Justin Rorh talked about some of the factors that went into the decision to include K-9s.

“I think the driving force was once we found out a safe way to do it,” Rorh said.

Rorh says it involves the team's K-9s.


“Police Service Dog Gizmo — I’ve had him for four years, he’s six years old,” Rorh said.

The dogs are first trained to find permeated odor, which is the scent of pure fentanyl.

Handlers wear gloves to not contaminate the odor with human scent.

For the last six weeks, these Kansas K-9s have been in the field and have proven successful, having one recent fentanyl detection.


“We’re going to take it and run and continue to push forward with it,” Shoemaker said.

But it’s not only helping the Kansas State Highway Patrol.

The K-9s extend their help to other Kansas communities like Lawrence and Ottawa, and Shawnee and Nemaha counties.

“We respond to so many things to help other law enforcement agencies who do not have the training and equipment that we are blessed to have,” Shoemaker said.

The K-9 addition to cracking down on fentanyl is part of a federal-state partnership. Due to the deadly powerful nature of fentanyl, the canine officers get special training to avoid harm.

The officers carry Narcan; they say right now it’s for humans, but could be used on dogs.