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Smoke Signals 5/20-5/27

Bend Police Dogs



The legalization of recreational weed in Oregon brings about many changes, at least one of which is hard to celebrate. Police dogs are losing their jobs in states where pot is now legal, in large part because their ability to sniff out weed can now invalidate any arrest made where marijuana is present among other illegal narcotics. In such cases, it is hard to prove that the dog did not respond to weed.

What, then, does the future hold for the police dogs of Bend?

"They are being retired," says Officer Don Barber, drug detection canine handler for the City of Bend. Officer Barber handles Zoey, Bend's four year old Belgian Malinois police dog, who has been working since she was 17 months old. Barber explains that the City has been trying to sell her to states where marijuana is still illegal, but has not had any success. He hopes that Zoey will be allowed to go home with his family, but the decision is ultimately the City's. While it is possible to retrain police dogs, Barber explains that it would be very hard to prove in court that the dog did not respond to marijuana. Barber also points out that Bend police will no longer be able to conduct dog sniffs for marijuana in schools.

There are currently at least 12 drug detecting canines in Oregon that will be retired. Officer Barber explains that the very characteristics that make them great at their jobs make them difficult to place with families. "They are working dogs. They need to be moving," says Barber.

For now, the future of police dogs like Bend's Zoey remains uncertain.

Weed thought you'd like to know.

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