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Virginia State Police retires 13 K9s after marijuana becomes legal

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In one month, Virginia’s new law to legalize recreational use of marijuana will take effect. The legislation is impacting police departments throughout the Commonwealth and their four-legged officers.

Virginia State Police says they retired 13 K9s in light of this new law.

Sergeant Scott Amos, a canine training coordinator with Virginia State Police, says their canines were trained to smell marijuana. The new law means they will need to train new dogs to go out into the field and take marijuana out of their curriculum.

“With the new legislation, we’ve had to retire those K9s and start with brand new K9s that are not trained to smell marijuana,” Amos said. “They’re going to be trained to search out methamphetamine, Ecstacy, heroin and cocaine and different derivatives of those narcotics.”

Amos also says the change comes with impacts.

“There’s a financial impact because the dogs cost money to bring in,” he said. “Then, there’s a time impact. All the handlers have to come back in and get retrained with their new K9 partners before they can be out on the road working again.”

Six weeks ago, VSP started training their new four-legged officers. Amos said they currently have 10 canines in training, but they will bring more to replace the 13 retired K9s.

Amos also says each dog will go through a 13-week training to help them sniff out narcotics in the field.

“We’ll find toys they enjoy playing with and we’ll introduce them to the odor of the narcotics,” he said. “As they start to show a little interest towards that odor, we’ll reward them.”

Amos says their department is adapting to the changes to comply with the state’s new law.

“We want to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth and our K9s want to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth in the best way we can,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to be subject to an illegal search because we didn’t take the time to retrain handlers and train new dogs on something that’s now legal.”

As for the 13 retired K9s, they were all adopted by their handlers. Amos says they’re in a good home and enjoying retirement.

“We get very attached to these dogs because we’ll spend more time with the dogs throughout the week than we do with our own families, and of course the families get attached to them because they become a part of the family,” he said.

In light of this new law, the Henrico Police Department says they also had to retire all five of their narcotic-detecting canines in November last year.

The department says they have three new canines, who completed Narcotics Detecting Certification School.

There will also be an upcoming retirement ceremony for those dogs who have retired after serving alongside their handler and all across Henrico County.

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