Police drug canine discovering new roles after Arizona legalizes pot

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Legalizing marijuana means some dogs will be reassigned, replaced, or …

PHOENIX – Marijuana legalization could leave some of man’s best friends unemployed.

For years, K9s have been trained to track down illegal drugs, resulting in busts across the country.

In the past, dogs were typically trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth. What happens now that recreational weeds are legal?

Why is it a problem?

“Dogs don’t talk, so they can’t articulate. They are trained to find four smells. When a dog alarms, we can’t tell which of those smells they find,” said Wes Zygmont, trainer at K-9 Defense in Said Scottsdale.

In short, with a dog trained to recognize all four odors, there is no way of knowing whether a dog is alerting its owner to an illegal drug or weed.

Before marijuana was legalized, a dog’s “warning” could be a possible reason for an officer to look for drugs.

“Just the smell [is] no longer a likely cause for a crime, “said Sgt. Andy Williams of the Phoenix Police.

With marijuana legalized, some fear the continued use of four smell dogs could undermine legal proceedings.

“Even if the tool is used, it completely undermines the officer’s case or work,” said Zygmont.

So what happens to the dogs?

There will be dozens of dogs across the state in need of reassignment or replacement.

Many dogs are trained for the dual purpose so that they can play a role even after they are no longer being used to detect drugs.

The Department of Public Security says they had marijuana snoops as of November 18. Eight have been replaced so far, but they still need ten more.

According to an email, some of the dogs are still performing their non-drug addict patrol duties while others have been removed from their responsibilities and adopted as pets.

The Phoenix Police Department currently has 10 drug detection canines that (along with other drugs) are used to raise awareness of marijuana. However, this number will be gradually reduced.

The department plans to continue using these dogs to detect large amounts of the drug.

The department currently has nine K-9s with evidence of drugs other than marijuana.

“For the day-to-day chores that we do, we need these new marijuana-free dogs,” said Sgt. Williams said.

Each dog costs from $ 12,000.

What about retraining?

Both Phoenix Police and DPS said they do not believe these dogs can be retrained not to smell marijuana.

However, K-9 Defense thinks this is possible and tries to prove it.

“Repeat after repeat after repeat, I can bring you back to these three commands,” said Zygmont.

K-9 Defense said it has retrained one dog so far and plans to start a second next week.

They believe that if they remove the positive reinforcement from finding marijuana, the dog will eventually stop alerting the smell.

“Dogs have no logic or reason, okay? They take snapshots of things,” said Zygmont.

By replacing these snapshots with new images without positive reinforcement, K-9 believes it can retrain the dogs.

However, dogs always sniffed at what DEA agents and law enforcement agencies could now never track.

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