If recreational marijuana is legalized in New York state, law enforcement agencies statewide will likely be faced with a choice for their drug detection K9s: repurpose or retire?
"Once marijuana is legalized, you can't tell that dog 'you cannot sniff for marijuana anymore,'" says Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol.
The Sheriff's Department's drug detection K9, Natalie, will likely concentrate her olfactory senses on the Oneida County Jail if legalization comes.
"No matter what, marijuana will never be allowed in the correctional facility. Legalized or not. We don't allow tobacco in the correctional facility, so Natalie will certainly have her day busy here at the correctional facility, not only doing random searches of the correctional facllity cells themselves, but visitation is where most of our contraband comes through," says Maciol.
Natalie's magnetic personality also makes her a prime candidate for the title, "PR pup".
"She'll be the dog that'll visit the schools, she'll be the dog that'll spend some time in the nursing homes and when we're doing safety programs in the senior citizens centers," said Maciol.
Natalie didn't make the cut in Freedom Guide Dogs, so the organization donated her to the Sheriff's Department. Next time, they'll have to purchase a dog.
"To purchase a drug dog, it's going to be about $8000. That does not include the training for the handler and the dog," said Maciol.
Currently 47 of 56 New York State Police drug-detection K9s are trained to detect marijuana. Nine, which graduated this past fall, were not imprinted with marijuana; five going into the academy in February won't be, either. State Police haven't yet decided what to do with the 47 dogs trained to detect marijuana if it becomes legalized in the state.