Tacoma police dog dies after inhaling meth

Barney, a Tacoma police narcotics dog, died Wednesday night, one day after inhaling methamphetamine while searching the storage unit of suspected drug traffickers.

The 11-year-old black Labrador mix joined the department in 2010. There are three dogs working for Tacoma police, but Barney was the only one specifically trained to find drugs.

His handler, officer Henry Betts, rushed him to a veterinarian Tuesday after the dog touched his nose to meth found at a Puyallup storage unit while officers served a search warrant.

Narcotics dogs are trained to alert their handlers to drugs by placing their nose on them. In this case, Barney accidentally inhaled residue from the substance. He suffered seizures, and his body temperature soared to 109 degrees.

Vets kept him overnight and said Barney was more responsive Wednesday morning. They continued to monitor him for hyperthermia, but he died that night.

Pierce County prosecutors said Thursday they were not sure yet whether they would amend charges against the three suspected drug traffickers to include Barney’s death.

Samuel Tafolla Hernandez, 39, and Thomas Servantes Diaz, 34, pleaded not guilty to drug possession with intent to deliver. Servantes Diaz is also charged with unlawful gun possession.

Jose Mauricio Loranzo-Miranda, 38, pleaded not guilty to unlawful drug possession and was released on his own recognizance.

Bail was set at $1.5 million for both Tafolla Hernandez and Servantes Diaz.

The drug bust, which yielded 44 pounds of meth, was one of the largest in the county in the last decade, prosecutors said.

Funeral plans for Barney had not been finalized Thursday. The departments asked that anyone wanting to send a donation do so to a local Humane Society.

“Barney will be remembered as a dedicated member of our department, who without a doubt made Tacoma safer by virtue of his work and his service,” Chief Donald Ramsdell said. “Barney died in the line of duty and will be honored as such.”

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune