A number of narcotic police dogs in Illinois will have to be euthanized if the state legalizes recreational marijuana, claims the training director of a K-9 academy.
Opponents of new legislation say that because dogs are taught from a young age to recognize the smell of marijuana as an illegal drug, it is almost impossible to reverse that training.
The row has broken out as policymakers in Illinois are considering whether or not to make the State the 10th in the country to legalize the drug. There is currently a marijuana pilot program in operation, which will expire in 2020.
There are around 275 narcotic K-9s in Illinois currently, who have been trained to pick up a variety of scents - including marijuana.
According to police sources, the dogs would have to be retrained, to avoid them picking up on the scent of marijuana - leading to an unnecessary search.
Chad Larner, who heads up Maron County's K-9 Training Academy, says retraining the dogs would be 'extreme abuse'. He adds that the dogs are trained to be anti-social in order to be good workers - meaning it would be difficult to rehome them all, putting them at risk of death.
'Ridiculous and hyperbole'
But proponents of the new legislation are skeptical about these claims, with one dismissing them as a 'red herring'.
Dan Linn, Executive Director of group NORML - a marijuana advocacy group, told The Pantagraph: "The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal ... all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic.
Additionally, Assistant Police Chief Steve Petrilli of the Normal Police Department did not believe the animals would be euthanized if they retired, but that they would continue to live with their handlers.