Opioids & Pets: How far some addicts will go for a fix

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– So addicted to pain pills, substance abusers are stealing drugs from their own pets.

The alarming trend is showing just how far addicts will go to get their hands on drugs.

How could someone hurt their dog, an innocent animal, just to get high?

That’s exactly what a Kentucky woman did only a few hours away from Nashville to her three year old golden retriever Alice.

“This is just a poignant, vivid illustration of the depths that an addict will sink to feed their addiction,” says Officer John Thomas, an Elizabethtown, Kentucky Police Detective.

Thomas responded to the call back in 2014 from a local vet, suspicious of owner Heather Pereira, who had brought Alice in for a similar cut two months prior.

“Disbelief was my initial reaction, I’ve been doing this job for 10 years and in 10 years I have not encountered anything quite like this.”

According to the criminal complaint, this was the third time Pereira sliced Alice with a razor blade to get a prescription for Tramadol, a narcotic commonly used to treat pain in animals and people.

“For patients that are looking to get some kind of relief from their opioid addiction it could be very appealing,” says Dr. David Marcovitz, with Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Addiction Psychiatry.

Marcovitz says these kind of extreme measures are sad but not unexpected for someone suffering the disease.

“I think it’s important to understand that addiction hijacks the brain,” says Marcovitz. “One of the ways it hijacks it, is our ability to plan, to think about long term consequences so people are really focused on short term rewards, even if it means being outside the context of right and wrong.”

Owners abusing their pets, and “vet shopping” for pain pills, is uncharted territory for some veterinarians just looking to help animals.

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued a new set of guidelines of behavior to watch.

Dr. Beau House treats animals daily at Nashville Veterinary Specialists and says he knows the red flags.

“They could ask for a drug by specific milligram strength, those types of things, things that seem out of the ordinary for most people,” says House.

Looking for warning signs is a way to prevent future victims like Alice, who has found a new safe and loving home.

Alice’s owner, Heather Pereira, got sentenced to four years in prison for animal abuse charges.

Elizabethtown Police say she’s currently out on parole, moved out of state, and is sober.

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