BRADENTON (FOX 13) - Sergeant Steven Chernard and his K9 partner Yas are ready to respond to anything. Lately, they've had a lot of one certain call.
"Every day, one if not multiple of our K9 units are responding to calls involving drugs," said Sgt. Chernard.
Manatee County is ground zero in Florida's heroin epidemic. Chasing down users and sellers and tracking the drugs, is dangerous duty for deputies and their K9 partners.
"Everything they do is essentially with their nose. They'll go up smell it, inhale it, and that can be life-threatening for them," said Chernard.
Last November, during a drug raid in Brevard County, three K9s overdosed after inhaling fentanyl, which is used to make heroin. They recovered after a trip to an emergency vet.
In Manatee County, a K9 was treated for a possible overdose last year after coming into contact with a bag of heroin.
"He was rushed to our animal clinic immediately. He was put under supervision for a good part of the day," Chernard said.
That was a wakeup call for deputies. Now they carry a new tool in their triage kit: Naloxone, known as Narcan, is a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose.
"In the heat of the moment, if you have to use it, you can't mess it up, and it will give us the time we need to get to the vet," Chernard explained.
Eight kits were donated to the K9 deputies by the Hynton family. They purchased the kits from the Desoto Animal Clinic, which had already donated one as a gift.
All nine K9's in Manatee County now have access to the important drug, and making sure their partners are safe at the end of the day is always their main objective.
"These dogs are not just dogs to us. They are like family," Chernard added.