Puppy’s owners dispute claim he overdosed on fentanyl

Days after Irvine police said they saved a pit bull puppy from a fentanyl overdose, the pet’s owner was allowed to take his dog back after a preliminary drug test on the puppy showed up. is revealed negative.

There’s one problem: The 29-year-old says he now has 14 days to pay the city more than $2,000 for the animal’s care.

“They’re basically holding my puppy for ransom,” Caleb Gibson, the dog’s owner, told the Times. “I’m a student on financial aid, so I don’t have that kind of money to spend.”

Last week, Gibson and his girlfriend made headlines after police arrested the couple in a Walmart parking lot. Authorities said the two men had drugs in their car and that Gibson’s girlfriend was concerned that Myla, their 8-week-old puppy, had somehow ingested fentanyl during the drive. ‘arrest. Police treated the dog with Narcan — a brand of naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses — and said the animal “immediately began to recover.”

Then they sent the case to the prosecutor’s office on suspicion of drug possession and animal cruelty, but so far no charges have been filed. Tuesday, Sgt. Karie Davies confirmed that Gibson was allowed to take his dog back, but maintained that the animal had overdosed even though they did not find evidence of drugs in his system. She said a blood sample from the dog was sent to a laboratory for further analysis.

“We know there was fentanyl in the car, that’s confirmed,” Davies told the Times. “The dog was overdosing, so whether the tests came back negative or not doesn’t matter.”

In recent years, there have been several viral news reports of dogs — particularly police dogs — allegedly overdosing on fentanyl, although it’s unclear how often this actually happens. Experts say canine overdoses are possible, but dogs are much less sensitive to the drug than humans. And, just like with humans, drug experts say it’s not possible for animals to overdose simply from being exposed to the substance by touching or inhaling it, even though police sometimes claim so. opposite.

“Law enforcement has been spreading misinformation about fentanyl for several years,” said Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University. “The same situation is repeated today with animals.”

Before getting Myla, Gibson had wanted a dog for a few months. He said he gave his former pet – a pit bull named Baxter – to his mother after he was diagnosed with cancer. She fell in love with Baxter, so Gibson didn’t want to take him back. Instead, he worked to clean up his own life.

Caleb Gibson’s former dog, Baxter, was also a pit bull.

(Provided by Caleb Gibson)

At this point, he had been battling addiction for a few years. What started as a party as a teenager spiraled out of control, and by his mid-20s, Gibson had become addicted to opioids. About nine months ago, he said, he decided to enroll in a methadone program so he could take daily doses of a medication that would help him control the urge to get high.

“I tried to get my life in order,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of slip-ups, but the counselor at the methadone clinic says I’m doing pretty well. »

He also started welding school, earning perfect grades while working to refocus his life. His girlfriend also began taking methadone, he said, although she occasionally relapsed into drug use.

Two months ago, a pit bull belonging to one of Gibson’s friends had puppies.

“But there was something wrong with the mom, I was helping my friends take care of them,” he said. “And I fell in love with Myla.”

He bought the dog for $200 and took her to visit his siblings every day when he went to welding school, then picked her up on his way home.

“I never had children, but I had her,” he said. “She was happy and healthy.”

On Wednesday morning, the couple decided to stop at Whole Foods to pick up some burritos and puppy food, Gibson said. Afterward, they realized they didn’t have a dog bowl, so they went to Walmart. They were eating in the store parking lot when Gibson said he threw part of his burrito out of the car.

Caleb Gibson and Katherine Menke smile for a photo.

Caleb Gibson and Katherine Menke were granted permission to have their dog back after a hearing Monday.

(Caleb Gibson and Katherine Menke)

Initially, Irvine police said the arrests began as a “consensual” encounter, although Gibson later disputed this. He said the police accused him of littering, arrested him and wanted to search the car.

After police discovered the fentanyl, Gibson said, officers briefly left the dog alone in the car before deciding to let the animal sit outside with him and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Katherine Menke. Some officers petted the puppy, who was still playful during the 45-minute or more wait, Gibson said.

It was only when they arrived at the police station that the dog began to appear lethargic. At this point, Gibson had already been escorted to another room and so he did not see what happened next.

Department spokesman Kyle Oldoerp told The Times on Saturday that Menke said, “Oh, I think my dog ​​is overdosing,” prompting police action.

“She knew the symptoms because it was the second time the dog had overdosed,” he said.

But it is not known exactly when the puppy would have ingested the drugs.

“What happened to him happened during two hours of police custody,” Gibson wrote on the department’s Facebook page.. “The cops found drugs, handled them, then let the puppy chew his fingers. This is and only why Katherine said what she said.

The department rejected Gibson and Menke’s accounts.

“They are going to challenge everything that happened that day,” Davies told the Times. “We are therefore not going to comment on an active criminal investigation.”

Although Gibson and Menke did not deny that there was fentanyl in the car, Gibson said it was not his and that he continued to participate in the methadone program instead of using illicit drugs . Menke told the Times she relapsed but has since returned to the methadone program.

After spending a few hours at the station, Gibson said, he and his girlfriend were allowed to leave without any charges, but they couldn’t take their dog. Instead, the department held the animal pending a hearing.

When the couple showed up for the hearing Monday, they learned that a preliminary urine test revealed no drugs in the dog’s system. According to Gibson, the animal control officer had doubts about the results because he couldn’t collect as much urine from the puppy as he would normally use for a test.

Although she confirmed Gibson’s account of the initial test results, Davies said it was too early to draw conclusions because further results were pending.

“Ultimately, the lab tests we sent out didn’t come back, so I’m going to leave it at that,” she said.

But in light of the preliminary test results, Gibson and Menke said they were surprised that Monday’s hearing concluded the seizure was justified, meaning they would have to reimburse the city for the costs of keeping the dog.

On Wednesday, Gibson told the Times that after two days of back and forth with the city, he discovered he owed $2,586.33. If he doesn’t pay by Sept. 20, the dog will be “considered abandoned” and “will become the property of the city,” according to documents Gibson received.

“Myla made our days so much better and made us want to do better for ourselves,” Menke said. “We really didn’t have anyone but each other. This dog made it feel like we really were family.


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