Local law enforcement, state police to retire K9s as marijuana becomes legal in Virginia

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office said they will likely lose two dogs

July 1 brings a big change to Virginia.

ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – In three weeks, a big change is coming to the Commonwealth as Virginia’s new law to legalize recreational use of marijuana will take effect. The change impacts police departments across the state and their K9 officers.

“It’s really going to impact us,” admitted Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin Hall. “The ability to be able to search suspected vehicles for narcotics trafficking, and also those animals are used to search our schools on a random basis.”

Hall, whose department will possibly lose two dogs, says this loss cripples his narcotics officers, and pockets just aren’t deep enough to purchase new K9s right away.

Sheriff Hall says the dogs can cost upwards of $15,000. A possible solution is to use the dogs solely for suspect tracking and apprehension since they are dual-trained, but it essentially wastes the extra money spent for drug detection training.

“Although it’s very important to us, there are some other things in the budget that’s really needed,” admitted Sheriff Hall.

Roanoke County Police aren’t losing dogs, but Chief Howard Hall is more so worried about the law itself.

“The implementation of this in my view is really irresponsible. It’s not well done. It is going to cause considerable problems,” said Chief Hall.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office will retire 5-year-old Kilo. He is trained in methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana detection.

Retiring Henry County Sheriff's Office K9 (Courtesy: Henry County Sheriff's Office) (Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Kilo holds certifications through Virginia State Police, Virginia Police Work Dog Association, and currently North American Police Work Dog Association.

He was used over 100 times in 3 years of service.

Virginia State Police says they retired 13 K9s in light of this new law.

NBC 12 in Richmond reports, six weeks ago, VSP started training their new four-legged officers. State police said they currently have 10 K9s in training, but they will bring more to replace the 13 retired K9s.

It is harder for smaller agencies, like the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, to replace retired K9s.

Sheriff Hall says his team will get creative by fundraising to buy new K9 officers.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.