K-9 now able to detect synthetic drugs

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga — What is believed to be the first dog capable of detecting synthetic marijuana will soon be working on the streets and in schools in Douglas County.

The dog, 1 1/2 year-old springer spaniel, was donated by the father of a young teenager who died after smoking synthetic marijuana. Lance Dyer said he named the dog after his son Dakota. Customized training for the dog was provided by a foundation that he established in memory of his child.

“Our foundation recognizes the importance of education and our youth and getting them to realize how serious these synthetics are. And the dog Dakota is a great spokesperson. This will give the Sheriff’s Department a way to detect and the District Attorney's Office a way to prosecute,” said Dyer.

The dog, which can also detect traditional illegal drugs, received his unique training at a kennel in Pennsylvania. The director of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit said the dog will be a new and important asset for the agency.

“The typical drugs--pot, cocaine, meth-- we have had dogs being able to sniff those for years. This is something that’s going to be huge for us, because people won’t be able to hide these drugs that they have in their possession,” Douglas County Sheriff K-9 Commander, Lt. Michael Barnhill said.

Earlier this year, prosecutors in Douglas County won a jury verdict in one of the largest synthetic marijuana cases in the country. They believe the new dog will be helpful in going after other synthetic drug dealers.

“It’s all about saving lives for these kids, and prosecuting those who peddle this kind of poison to our teenagers,” Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said.

Dyer said he is hopeful other law enforcement agencies in Georgia will consider K-9 training to detect synthetic drugs. He said by donating the dog to the Sheriff’s Office he also is paying tribute to his son.

“I’d like to think as we stand here today, God the almighty and my son are looking down, and they’re smiling,” Dyer said.