Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Melissa Villeneuve
Page: A1



It's a deadly drug that's use is quickly growing across the nation,
including our own backyard. Fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more toxic
than morphine, is known to cause serious harm to individuals,
including death.

To prepare for increased trafficking and save more lives, the RCMP is
ramping up their training across Canada for police dogs and their
handlers. The Coaldale RCMP currently has one police dog team - Cpl.
Jesse Gawne and his canine partner Ejay - who will soon be trained to
detect the illicit drug.

Ejay, a four-year-old purebred German shepherd, is one of 139 RCMP
narcotics-profile dogs and their handlers across Canada that will
undergo the training by summer. The pair have been working together
for more than two years.

"He's sort of my eyes and ears on a lot of things we do," said Gawne.
"He's my early detection device."

Ejay is used primarily for tracking, but can also locate narcotics. If
there is a crime scene or a missing person, Ejay can use his super
sniffing power to form a scent pattern of the individual he's tracking.

"He discriminates scents, so once he forms that scent picture of what
an individual is, he won't take a track on a different individual,"
said Gawne. "He'll follow that track from point A to point B."

Gawne and Ejay are fairly new to southern Alberta, posted to the
region in May 2016. In Strathcona County, where he and Ejay were
previously posted, Gawne said they were used at least once a week to
help locate drugs.

"I've seen fentanyl a lot more in the south than I did in the north,"
said Gawne. "But it's still a fairly new drug, so it could be the same
in the north right now as well. But it seems like a fairly frequent
thing out here."

Staff Sgt. Glenn Henry of the Coaldale RCMP detachment confirmed
fentanyl is becoming more prevalent in the region.

In the Coaldale detachment areas, which includes the Town of Coaldale
and the south part of Lethbridge County, Henry said they've had two
deaths they believe are fentanyl-related.

"Yes, it's here. Yes, it's a problem. We look forward to the rollout
of this new detection dog team," he said. "Anything that helps us
detect fentanyl and cracking down on illegal fentanyl use will likely
save lives. "If this is a tool we can use to detect fentanyl and
prevent people from doing harm to themselves, we're all for it."

The national RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre is located in

RCMP specialists have transformed pure fentanyl into a diluted liquid
form, which enables the dogs to train with the real smell of fentanyl
with no risk of inhaling it.

"It is particularly efficient, making the dogs in the field extremely
productive," said Staff Sgt. Eric Stebenne, Senior Trainer at the RCMP

Three RCMP dog teams are already trained to detect fentanyl and RCMP
say it's paying off in a big way. One of the teams in B.C. has already
intercepted 12,000 tablets.

A recent report from Alberta Health Services indicates 343 people died
from fentanyl overdose in Alberta last year alone. Of those, 16 were
recorded in the South Zone.

"I do believe the Canadian population is safer because of our new
fentanyl dog training. By keeping more fentanyl off the street, we
save Canadian lives," said Inspector Akrum Ghadban, Officer in Charge
of the RCMP PDSTC.

The training is expected to be completed by mid-July 2017.
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