New Jersey's recently enacted marijuana reforms are having an unintended consequence. It's putting drug sniffing police K9 officers out of a job.

The Ocean County Sheriff's Office confirms four of their dogs are being retired.

K9s Kane, Stosh, Utah and Brutas had all been trained to sniff narcotics as well as weed. They can no longer be used because possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in New Jersey.

If a dog gets a "hit," it could be for any type of drug. The new laws in New Jersey prohibits police from stopping or searching anyone based solely on the odor of marijuana.

Ocean County Sheriff's Investigator James Reilly tells New Jersey 101.5 the four dogs being retired are older dogs, nearing the end of their career, and that should make transition into private life easier.

Here are some of the K9 officers assigned to the Ocean County Sherriff's Department:


In most cases, the retired dog will remain with his partner.

"We give them the best retirement we can, but it's tough," Reilly says. "They want to work."

The K9s are used to being with their partners almost all of the time, so the adjustment of being left at home can be stressful.

This is especially true if the officer gets a new K9 partner.  The retired dog doesn't understand why the new dog is going to work while it has to stay home.

Reilly is partnered with K9 Brutas. At 10, Brutas was nearing the end of his career and will remain with Reilly.

"We still exercise them, work with them and spent a ton of time," he said.

The Sheriff's Department saw this change coming after similar stories of dogs being retired prematurely came out of states like Colorado when they legalized recreational marijuana. Any new dogs that join the department will not be trained to detect marijuana.

The department also has a number of other working dogs, like blood hounds and explosive detecting dogs that will not be effected.

The department is also waiting for additional guidance from the state Attorney General's Office about the use of dogs moving forward. Dog that are trained only to detect narcotics can go back and re-trained on marijuana, but once imprinted, they cannot be un-trained.

K9 units are an extremely valuable tool for police departments but the cost of purchasing, training and housing the dogs costs upward of $10,000, plus the salary of the human partner.

Ocean County will retire four of their five drug sniffing dogs in the weeks ahead. A fifth K9 officer has not been cross-trained to sniff cannabis, and will remain in service.

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