WASTE WATCH: Could legalizing marijuana in Illinois hurt drug-sniffing dogs?

WASTE WATCH: Could legalizing marijuana in Illinois hurt drug-sniffing dogs? (File photo)

Macon County Sheriff, Howard Buffett, has been blasted over comments he allegedly made about drug-sniffing dogs.

According to the Pantagraph Newspaper, he was quoted referring to the possible abolishment of K-9 units in Illinois if marijuana legislation is passed.

“The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you are going to have to replace all your dogs,” Sheriff Buffett allegedly told the newspaper.

Law enforcement agencies spend tens of thousands of dollars to support their K-9 units. In the article, Sheriff Buffett added that K-9 dogs would either have to be replaced or retrained. It’s a move that could cost millions.

After the article was published, Sheriff Buffett canceled a previously scheduled interview with News Channel 20.

The Decatur Police Department failed to return our request for comment after a K-9 trainer allegedly told the newspaper that some dogs may have to be euthanized.

“We retire K-9 officers all the time,” said State Representative Kelly Cassidy, D-14th District. “People adopt them and soldiers bring their dogs with them. Those dogs aren’t tortured because they aren’t sniffing for bombs anymore.”

In Sangamon County, it costs about $10,000 to purchase one dog.

In Christian County, Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp told News Channel 20 that it costs thousands of dollars more to train dogs.

“It can be up to $20,000,” Sheriff Kettelkamp said. “I don’t have the budget. I don’t have the money to get a new K-9 and we’d have to retrain our K-9 handler and that would require taking an officer off the street for up to 16 weeks.”

Representative Cassidy says that the argument is foolish. Cassidy is backing legislation that could make Cannabis legal in the state of Illinois.

“We have gone about this very methodically and deliberately,” Cassidy said. “We’ve talked to other states and asked them what lessons they’ve learned and what they wished they’d done differently. I have never heard anyone say ‘but the dogs.’”

News Channel 20 reached out to police departments in Denver and Seattle, cities where marijuana is legal. We learned that some dogs were re-trained to sniff out larger quantities of marijuana.

Sheriff Kettelkamp says while killing dogs is not likely in Illinois, he has concerns beyond the K-9 debate.

“We see what’s happening in Colorado,” Sheriff Kettelkamp said. “There are more traffic accidents and more traffic fatalities because people are under the influence of marijuana. It is a big expense and it could cost us in Christian County.”

Sheriff Buffett reportedly has a private foundation that helps pay for K-9 units throughout Illinois. A representative from the Howard Buffett Foundation says he was misquoted and he will not be commenting any further.

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