ORISKANY, NY-- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed to legalize recreational marijuana by April 1, which could force hundreds of K9 officers and deputies into early retirement.
But the Oneida County Sheriff's Office is prepared if the law goes into effect, with a new K9 deputy who is trained to detect drugs, but not marijuana.
"With the potential legalization of marijuana one of the things we looked at is we need to expand our drug dog unit," said Sheriff Robert Maciol. "Our current drug dog Natalie, who is certified in marijuana, cocaine and heroin... once marijuana becomes legal, if it does, the problem is Natalie won't be able to be utilized out on the street."
The department purchased Enzo, a German shepherd, from the country Hungary for $8,000. The money was taken from a forfeiture account, with no costs to taxpayers.
Enzo will be performing narcotics detection, building searches, and tracking. Jason Osika, a K9 deputy with the Oneida County Sheriff's office, is Enzo's handler.
"We're going to end up putting narcotic pseudo-fake narcotic inside of toys, because we don't want the dog to actually have the real stuff and we just play fetch with the dog," Osika said. "After a while the dog associates that toy with the drugs then we start hiding the toy and he starts using his nose to find it."
He and Enzo and take a five week course for training before Enzo can begin patrolling.
Osika said Enzo is different than having a family pet.
"You really can't treat him like a normal dogs, they are a tool," he said. "They can't have a lot of the things normal dogs can do. Normal dogs aren't supposed to jump up on furniture, on counters and tables that kind of stuff, we can't tell them not to do that because they may have to do that for an actual work."
Osika added that gives Enzo commands in another language so that he is the only person who can tell Enzo what to do and what not to do.
K9 Enzo is named in memory of Deputy Sheriff Anthony Calenzo, a member of the sheriff's office who served the community for over 29 years. Calenzo died in 2016.