Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cannabis Legalization Forces 14 RCMP Sniffer Dogs into Early Retirement

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cannabis Legalization Forces 14 RCMP Sniffer Dogs into Early Retirement

Article excerpt

Weed legalization puts RCMP dogs out of work

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Earlier this month, the RCMP threw a retirement party in St. John's, N.L., for a Labrador retriever named Luke.

As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and as cannabis legalization approaches, that puts Luke and other dogs like him out of work.

Luke, who sniffed more than five million of dollars' worth of drugs during his time on the force, is one of 14 canines across the country who will be out of a job before October 17.

Traffic and interdiction dogs like Luke are trained to detect cannabis, but once the substance is legal, they can no longer be used to establish grounds for search in a traffic stop.

All 14 dogs need to be replaced, and it will cost about $5,000 to train each new pup with the updated drug palette that excludes cannabis.

Luke is the only dog retiring in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there are others in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba who will be hanging up their hats by October.

Traffic and interdiction dogs represent about 12 per cent of the total narcotics canine force. Staff Sgt. Gary Creed, senior trainer at the RCMP's police dog service in Innisfail, Alta., says he considers this the largest group of dogs the force has ever had to replace at one time.

And with a staff of just seven trainers, Creed is not sure that the replacements will be ready before the legalization date.

"Yes, it's going to be a strain on our budget, but it's manageable," Creed said.

"The federal government changes the laws on us, right, and we have to deal with it. And not just us, all police forces."

The force's general duty dogs can still be used in situations where cannabis is still illegal, or when grounds for search have already been established, minimizing the number of replacements.

But Creed said it's been a work-in-progress figuring out how to manage the quick, sizable turnover. …

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