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Mendocino drug-sniffing dog dies during training

A Mendocino County Sheriff's drug-sniffing dog has died of apparent methamphetamine ingestion.

"Morgan" was in a narcotics detection training session near the Oregon border Aug. 20 when he began to show signs of distress, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office disclosed Tuesday.

He died in the time it took his handler, Deputy Joey DeMarco, to describe the dog's symptoms over the phone to a veterinarian, officials said.

Morgan was a 15-month-old German shepherd that had been imported from the Czech Republic. He began training with DeMarco, an experienced handler, in February. They were in training with CJ's Police K9s when Morgan died. The company's owner could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Morgan was being trained for patrol work and for detecting methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine and MDMA.

He bit into a container that held methamphetamine during the Aug. 20 training, Sheriff's Lt. Smallcomb said.

Morgan is the first Mendocino County Sheriff's dog to die on duty since the county initiated a canine program more than 20 years ago, officials said. Others have died in retirement.

But Morgan was not the first police dog to die of a drug overdose. A Belgian Malinois named Viper died last year when he ripped open a package of cocaine during a drug bust in North Carolina, according to news reports.

Statistics were not available Tuesday, but news reports from across the country indicate that a majority of on-duty police dog deaths stem from being left in vehicles on hot days.

The dog cost about $8,000, not including the expense of his training, Smallcomb said. He said it will cost $8,000 to $12,000 to replace the dog.

The Sheriff's Office currently has six dogs on the force, including one in the jail, and a bloodhound..


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