K2 Kills a K9: Drug Sniffing Dog Dies After Synthetic Cannabis Exposure
Unlike the real thing, synthetic weed is highly dangerous and has injured or killed thousands of people — and animals — across the globe.
Published on July 23, 2019

Photo via Montgomery Advertiser / Alabama Department of Corrections

An Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) narcotics-sniffing dog tragically died this weekend after coming into contact with synthetic marijuana.

Last week, the ADOC dispatched three emergency response teams, including a drug-detecting K9 named Jake, to sweep for contraband at the Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore County. In the course of the search, Jake alerted his partner to the presence of a powdery substance.

Almost immediately after detecting the substance, Jake collapsed. The German Shepherd was immediately transferred to the prison's infirmary, where the medical staff were able to stabilize him by performing CPR and inserting an IV. The prison dorm was evacuated, and officials called the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Unit for assistance. The HazMat team identified the powder as synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana, often known as spice or K2, is a drug created by spraying mixtures of synthetic cannabinoids on plant material like catnip or tobacco. Unlike the real thing, these drugs are highly dangerous, causing rapid heart rate, internal bleeding, vomiting, confusion, and even death. 

Last year, Washington D.C. police uncovered a batch of fake weed that had been laced with rat poison. Criminals have even weaponized spice by using it to drug unsuspecting passersby and then rob them.

“After alerting on the substance, Jake lost his balance and became unresponsive,” Sgt. Quinton Jones, the dog's handler, said to the Montgomery Advertiser. “I want to thank members of Staton’s medical staff, Leanne Smith and Juanita Peavy, for saving Jake’s life. Without their immediate response to Jake’s condition, he would not be alive today. They are heroes for saving his life.”

Tragically, Jake's recovery was only temporary. The dog was transferred to a local vet, where his condition initially improved. At first, the vet believed that his patient would pull through and be able to return to work within weeks. But by Friday, Jake had developed pneumonia, and by the end of the weekend, he was dead.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey officially commended Jake on Monday. “I was saddened to hear that one of the Corrections K9s, Jake, lost his life over the weekend,” the governor said, the Advertiser reports. “This K9 died in service to public safety and in service to the state. Jake is an example of the goodness, the loyalty, and service that our four-legged friends provide. We certainly lost a loyal companion.”

Synthetic marijuana often becomes popular in states where real cannabis is strictly prohibited. These drugs are often made with unique mixtures of chemicals, allowing backroom chemists to keep brainstorming new recipes that keep them one step ahead of the law. This questionable legality has allowed these drugs to flourish in prohibition states, where they will continue taking lives until authorities realize that natural cannabis is a vastly safer alternative.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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