What’s a working dog to do? You learn your trade, hone your skills, toil away, only to find out that the world around you has evolved to a point where those skills are no longer much appreciated.
It’s why you can’t find a blacksmith too easily nowadays. It’s what happened to the elevator operator, the milkman, and, at least from my biased and disgruntled point of view, the newspaper reporter.
Such too was the case with Phelan, a marijuana-detecting Labrador retriever in the employ of the police department in Lakewood, Colorado.
With the passage by Colorado voters of Initiative 502 — legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana — the skill Phelan was best known for is no longer much in demand there.
In fact, his biggest asset has become a liability, the News Tribune reports.
Phelan was handed his pink slip this week and sold to the state Department of Corrections, where, in his new job, his inability to distinguish between marijuana and other drugs won’t be a problem — all drugs being illegal behind bars.
The same story is playing out in Washington state, where voters also legalized marijuana use, and where police departments are figuring out whether to cease training new dogs in marijuana detection, put their existing dogs through ”pot desensitization” training or just retire them and send them out to pasture, according to the Associated Press.
Take it from me, pasture sucks. Dogs and people, I think, prefer having a mission.
But Phelan’s mission, at least in the two states where moderate amounts of marijuana are now permitted, no longer much needs to be accomplished. Worse yet, alerting to small amounts of marijuana could mess up prosecutions in cases involving other, still illegal, drugs.
Say Phelan alerted to drugs in the trunk of a car. Phelan’s inability to distinguish between heroin and marijuana — or at least specify to his handler to which he is alerting — means any subsequent search by officers could have been based on Phelan detecting an entirely legal drug, in an entirely legal amount.
That means the “probable cause” the search was based on might not have really existed, and that means any evidence of illegal drugs subsequently found in the search would likely be tossed out.
Thus Phelan, unless he were to be retrained to drop marijuana-detecting from his repertoire — not easily accomplished — has ended up going from cutting edge law enforcement tool to an old school has been.
Drug detecting dogs — traditionally trained to alert to the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine – can’t specify what they’re smelling, much less the quantity it might be in.
In Washington, the new law decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug for individuals over 21, and barred the growth and distribution of marijuana outside the state-approved system.
Dog trainer Fred Helfers, of the Pacific Northwest Detection Dog Association, said abandoning pot training is a “knee-jerk” reaction: “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” Still, he’s helping departments who want to put their dogs through ”extinction training” to change what substances dogs alert to. That takes about 30 days, followed by a prolonged period of reinforcement.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission removed detecting marijuana from its canine team certification standards this year, and no longer requires dogs be trained to detect it, but some others say, given large amounts of pot are still illegal, it can still be a useful skill for a dog to have.
In Pierce County, prosecutor Mark Lindquist believes new dogs are the answer — dogs trained in sniffing out the other drugs, but not marijuana. He’s not convinced dogs can be re-trained. “We’ll need new dogs to alert on substances that are illegal,” he told the Associated Press.
Other police departments, like Tacoma’s, aren’t making any changes.
“The dog doesn’t make the arrest, the officer does,” said spokesperson Loretta Cool. “A canine alert is just one piece of evidence an officer considers when determining whether a crime has been committed.”
Phelan was one of two drug-sniffing dogs on the police force in Lakewood, Colorado. He’ll be replaced by Kira, a Belgian Malinois who was trained not to alert when she smells marijuana. Duke, a Labrador retriever mix with the old-school training, will remain on the force for now.
Phelan, though, will be moving on, and I sympathize with the crime-fighting Lab.
His new gig in the slammer is clearly a step down the career ladder — not unlike going from being a newspaper reporter detecting corruption and injustice to an unpaid blogger who mostly (but not entirely) regurgitates material already written.
And, for Phelan, there’s the added insult of being sold for the lowly sum of one dollar.
Surely — old school as his talents may be – he was worth more than that.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, cocaine, colorado, court, criminal justice, detect, detection, dog, dogs, drug-sniffing, drugs, heroin, job, K-9, k9, lakewood, law, law enforcement, marijuana, marijuana laws, mission, newspapers, police, police dogs, problems, prosecutors, purpose, reporters, searches, skills, sniffing, tacoma, useless, washington, working dogs
Jones Natural Chews Co of Rockford, Illinois, is recalling 2,705 boxes of pig ears after random tests found some of the product contaminated with Salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration reports.
The recall was the result of a routine sampling program by Washington State Department of Agriculture which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria.
No illnesses have been reported.
The pig ears in question — also sold under the Blain’s Farm and Fleet and Country Butcher brands — were distributed in Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. They were shipped to distributors and retailers between September 15, 2010 and November 2, 2010
Consumers who have purchased any of these pig ears are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-877-481-2663
Salmonella can affect animals and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. People handling dry pet food and/or treats can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the chews or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. If your pet consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
To see a full list of the recalled lots, keep reading. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek March 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, animals, blains farm, brands, chews, dog food, ears, fda, fleet and country butcher, food, food and drug administration, health, illinois, jones, jones natural chews, jones natural chews co, list, lots, pets, pig ears, recall, recalled, rockford, safety, salmonella, treats, warning
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected the presence of salmonella organisms in one or more 8-ounce bags of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats during random testing.
The company, based in Secaucus, New Jersey, has not received any reports of animals or people becoming ill as a result of contact with the treats, and is investigating the source of the contamination.
The affected treats are stamped with the lot code BZ0969101E, according to the FDA.
Dog owners who have purchased the recalled treats should immediately throw them away, and the FDA advises dog owners whose pets are exhibiting fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea to seek veterinary assistance.
Consumers with questions regarding the recall should contact Hartz at 1-800-275-1414. You can read the company’s press release about the recall here.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, animals, consumer, dog, dog treats, dogs, fda, hartz, hartz naturals, health, lot code, naturals, news, pets, press release, random, recall, recalled, safety, salmonella, symptoms, testing, treats, u.s. food and drug administration, voluntary, warning
The treats come in 10-ounce packages and were shipped to distributors and retailers throughout the United States, according to Merrick.
While the expanded recall is based on salmonella concerns, no illnesses related to the product have been reported.
Merrick issued limited recalls of its Beef Filet Squares and Texas Hold’ems treats in July and August after samples turned up positive for salmonella.
Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets may have decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans, according to the company.
Dog owners are urged to contact their veterinarian if their pet has consumed the recalled product and is exhibiting symptoms.
Consumers who have purchased 10-ounce packages of Beef Filet Squares for Dogs and Texas Hold’ems are urged to return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-664-7387, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, amarillo, animals, beef filet squares, consumer, dog, dog treats, dogs, expanded, health, lots, merrick, merrick pet care, news, packages, pets, recall, recalled, recalls, safety, salmonella, texas hold'em, treats, warning
Amid an increasing number of reports of deaths and seizures, the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring beefed up labeling for flea and tick products used on dogs and cats.
The EPA wants companies to make instructions on the products’ labels more clear so people don’t give their pets too much of the pesticides, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The announcement affects most flea and tick products that are applied directly to a pets’ skin.
The products include those made by Merck & Co., Bayer AG and Pfizer Inc. under the names Frontline Top Spot for Dogs, Promeris Canine Flea Control and Enforcer Flea Drops for Cats.
The EPA said the number of reports of pets suffering from these products continues to rise. In 2008, the EPA received 44,000 reports of adverse events from these products, a 53% increase from the year before.
Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said the labels are to blame, not consumers. “I don’t know how you would blame the victim in this case when the label isn’t clear,” he said.
Owens said in some instances, people don’t realize they need to regulate the dose based on their pet’s weight. He said the EPA will require more precise dosing on the product labels.
Companies that don’t voluntarily update the labels will be forced to, Owens said.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, animals, bayer AG, cats, consumer, control, deaths, dogs, enforcer, environmental protection agency, epa, flea, fleast, frontline, labels, merck & co., merial, news, overdoses, pesticides, pets, pfizer Inc., products, promeris, seizures, tick, ticks, topical, treatment, warning