Wyoming Highway Patrol’s K-9 Specifically Trained To Sniff Out Fentanyl; One Of Very Few In Nation

The Wyoming Highway Patrol's fentanyl-sniffing dog is one of the few K-9s at any police department in the country specifically trained to sniff-out pure fentanyl.

Ellen Fike

July 15, 20224 min read

Reno is a fentanyl-sniffing dog for the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Reno is a fentanyl-sniffing dog for the Wyoming Highway Patrol. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Reno is a black Labrador retriever who loves getting a tennis ball to play with after she’s done with a hard day of work.

Her unique job sniffing out fentanyl usually does not take too long, especially if she does it well. Needless to say, she gets a lot of time with her tennis ball.

Reno is a fentanyl-sniffing dog for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, one of the few K-9s at any police department in the country specifically trained to sniff out pure fentanyl. On Thursday, she gave a demonstration of her skills for members of the media, sniffing out three bags of fentanyl in just minutes.

“It doesn’t matter if the fentanyl is watered down, so to speak, or cut with other substances, it doesn’t change the chemical makeup of the fentanyl itself. She can find it, either way,” Lt. Josh Hardee of the Wyoming Highway Patrol told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Reno, the drug-sniffing K9, sniffs out a bag of fentanyl during a media demonstration Thursday.

The WHP has had Reno for about a year and in that time, she has made a number of drug busts, including sniffing out a 24-pound haul of fentanyl last year that landed a Washington man in prison for six years.

Mostly, Reno will work in Cheyenne and Laramie County, since the WHP headquarters is in the city. But, she could pop up in cities and towns across the state.

Hardee said Reno loves her job and he can tell she was a Lab “born to do this.”

Reno loves getting a tennis ball after a hard day’s work.

He also said there is a possibility that all of the WHP’s K-9s will be trained in detecting fentanyl, but for now, Reno is likely the only dog in the state who can set her nose on finding the dangerous drug.

“Reno and her handler make a great team and they’re finding more than just fentanyl,” Hardee said. “She can sniff out marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, too. There’s all kinds of drugs out there.”

Fentanyl has become a particular concern in Wyoming and across the country.

Legally administered, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

It is considered a Schedule II controlled substance and is typically prescribed after surgery or for pain associated with early-stage cancer and can be administered as a shot, a patch or in lozenge form.

The illegally-manufactured fentanyl coming across the border is sold in powder form, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye drops or nasal sprays or pressed into pills stamped with “M30,” which Hardee said is a common form of fentanyl found in Wyoming.

“We want to be at the forefront of taking these drugs off the streets,” Hardee said. “At the Wyoming Highway Patrol, we know this is an epidemic and we wanted to do something about it.”

In 2019, 11 Wyoming residents died from fentanyl-related overdoses, followed by 21 in 2020. The following year, this number more than doubled, increasing to 45 in 2021.

With Reno’s help, the WHP hopes to keep fentanyl from killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

“You can see how much she likes doing it, because she gets excited and wags her tail,” Hardee said. “We don’t have to motivate her to go to work, she’s ready.”

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Ellen Fike