Calgary

Legal pot puts 14 RCMP sniffer dogs out of work

Ability to detect marijuana could make dogs' evidence inadmissible in court

July 24, 2018

Kona is one of more than a dozen interdiction dogs for the RCMP whose marijuana sniffing skills will soon disqualify them for the job they were trained to do. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The upcoming legalization of marijuana in Canada is expected to create a lot of jobs for people, but it's putting one group of dogs out of work.

Fourteen RCMP interdiction dogs, which are used primarily to search for drugs, are being retired or sold to other forces because their training to sniff marijuana could cause problems for Crown prosecutors once pot is no longer illegal to possess.

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"Our interdiction dogs are often used to form grounds to continue searching or to arrest people," said Staff Sgt. Gary Creed, a senior trainer with the RCMP's police dog service in Innisfail, Alta., where all of the national police force's dogs are trained.

If they are trained to sniff marijuana, some of their evidence would not be admissible in court, he said.

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RCMP sniffer dogs out of work  0:41

Some of the interdiction dogs were already close to the end of their working lives and will be retired as pets. Five or six others will likely be sold to other forces or agencies.

"It's definitely a strain. We didn't plan to replace these," Creed said. "There's 14 dogs that we have to replace."

The remainder of the RCMP's approximately 170 dogs are general service canines whose pot-sniffing skills are still useful.

"A general duty dog that's trained with narcotics, they're used in deployment for narcotic detection," Creed said. 

"[They are used for] people have already been under arrest, or they're there to support some type of statutory thing such as a search warrant. So the dogs now are just used to search to find things."

The initial training process for a dog paired with an officer takes about six weeks, he said.

"All these experienced handlers are going to be coming in and getting new dogs. We're planning on taking about 20 days to do that, about half the time."

"It's way easier to train the dogs than it is the man."

The dogs that were trained to sniff marijuana will be sold to another agency rather than go into service for the RCMP as interdiction dogs. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

With files from Anis Heydari

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