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With legal pot, job loss lies ahead for K-9 sniffer

South Boston News
Deputy Jones and K-9 partner Hulk, enjoying a chew toy. / April 26, 2021

The cannabis industry and its supporters hail the job-creating potential of legal marijuana, but there’s one group that already is being put out of work by the embrace of pot: drug-sniffing K-9 police dogs.

Halifax County Sheriff’s Deputy Giles Jones and his K-9 dog Hulk were having fun together Saturday during the Earth Day celebration at the Halifax Market Place, but their time as policing partners will soon be coming to an end.

Hulk is trained to sniff out illegal drugs and is unable to distinguish marijuana from other illicit substances. Pot is generally the first drug that K-9 officers detect due to its pungent odor. With legalization of recreational marijuana starting July 1, his training has become a liability that will force the retirement of the springer/spaniel mix.

“We are planning to retire Hulk, but there is the possibility his skills could be used by another state,” said Jones.

Hulk is still a very young K-9 — he will be four in May. Jones said Hulk has served the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office with much success, at times detecting marijuana which would lead to the seizure of additional drugs.

“He’s great at what he does and I don’t want him to feel punished if he’s retired,” said Jones.

The two live together and work together. During their off-hours, Jones sets up hide-and-seek challenges for Hulk’s entertainment. Jones said he would miss Hulk if he were to be transferred to any locality.

The canine officer came to Earth Day to show off in front of the kids. Hulk played with his favorite toy — a ball on a rope — and received lots of dog treats for his crowd-pleasing enthusiasm. Youths who stopped by to see Hulk received a free flower to plant in honor of Earth Day.

At the South Boston Police Department, the plan for the department’s K-9 officer, Aya, is to keep her in service to the town by sniffing out drugs at the schools. Halifax County Public Schools has a zero tolerance policy, and police conduct periodic sweeps of the high school. In the short term, Aya will continue her certification in tracking and drug detection, including marijuana.

“We are evaluating and working on our long term goals,” said Lt. Randy Redd.

The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office has another K-9 officer, named Gus. He is a bloodhound and is used for tracking.

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