INNISFAIL – Several RCMP service dogs trained in Central Alberta and stationed across Canada will be retiring once cannabis becomes legal.
“Currently, there’s 14 dogs across the country that will be retired or sold to other agencies that still require that capability of marijuana detection,” said Staff Sgt Grant Hignell, program manager at the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre in Red Deer County between Innisfail and Bowden. “It could be in the United States or with (Canada) Border Services.”
All RCMP dogs that are trained to detect drugs, including cannabis, are trained at the RCMP training centre, he noted.
Several retiring dogs could have another opportunity to work in different areas, said Hignell.
“With that special capability, I would think there would be police agencies that will have interest in their services,” he said. “The ones that are older and are coming up for retirement anyways, they will probably be retired to their handler or to a family friend.”
Many of the dogs worked as traffic and interdiction dogs with traffic units on Canada’s highways and roadways.
“These dogs assisted officers in obtaining legal grounds to search a vehicle during a traffic stop,” explained Hignell. “As a result of that, with (cannabis) now becoming legal, that ability is no longer there.
“One of the odours they are trained to detect is marijuana,” he added. “Portions of it will become legal come October, when the new legislation comes into effect.”
He said they will be replaced by other RCMP service dogs in the coming months.
“They’ll be replaced with dogs that are not trained for that (cannabis) odour,” said Hignell. “We will be training handlers with new dogs over the course of the next year.”
Hignell said they train about 30 to 35 dogs a year at the centre near Bowden and have about 176 dog handler teams across the country.
“We needed to be proactive in our training and prepare for the future,” Hignell concluded.