Drug-sniffing dogs in Oregon might lose their jobs

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The work of a police dog just isn't the stable career it used to be.

Drug-sniffing canines in Oregon are about to learn what their four-legged counterparts in Colorado and Washington already know: marijuana legalization can mean an early retirement for their breed.


The Washington Post reports on the stories of Narc and Cody, a Belgian Malinois and Lab mix, respectively. The pair of five year olds are "model employees" at the police department in Medford, Oregon, according to their boss, Sgt. D.J. Graham.

But marijuana will become legal in the state on July 1. That will make the dogs dispensable, the Post points out.

Apparently, it is actually difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, due to the synapses they develop in their brains. And those old habits could become a problem during investigations. If the dogs accidentally flag marijuana on a drug bust for, say, heroin, it could jeopardize the legal case in court.

The Seattle Times, which originally reported the story, said the Medford Police Department is budgeting $24,000 for two new drug-sniffing dogs who can detect only meth, cocaine and heroin — a clear sign that Narc and Cody's careers may be coming to an end.

Their skill set isn't totally obsolete, the Seattle Times reports. The dogs could work counterfeit cases where money can carry the smell of drugs or investigate instances of marijuana crossing the state border.


Although authorities promise the canines won't be euthanized, Deputy Chief Brett Johnson admitted to the Times that it's an emotional transition.

“It’s kind of sad,” he said. “Nobody wants to see a dog lose its job.”

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.