‘Things are going to change..’: Winnipeg police to phase out cannabis-sniffing dogs

Dogs with the Winnipeg police services K-9 unit are highly trained and can detect a wide range of illegal substances.

But what happens when one of those drugs is no longer illegal? That’s the question the Winnipeg Police Service is dealing with as cannabis becomes legal on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

“Things are going to change a little bit next week,” said Const. Dan Papetti with the Winnipeg Police Service K-9 unit.

Dogs with cannabis training will no longer be used to form the grounds or legal motive for a search. Instead, a dog without the training will be brought in for this type of detection.

“We don’t want to run into a situation where a dog that’s been trained on it is indicating on an odor that may be legal,” said K-9 unit coordinator Sgt. Shawn Lowry. “We don’t want to have those issues later on in court.”

This doesn’t mean dogs with the training will suddenly be out of work. Lowry says dogs with cannabis training will still be called on regularly.

“If it’s a search warrant we already have grounds to make the arrest. We’re allowed to use the tools that we can, infrared cameras, individuals, or in this case the canine.”

The Winnipeg Police Service has been preparing for some time. One dog without Cannabis detection training is already on the job, and two new dogs who joined the force in January will not be trained to detect pot either.

Winnipeg police typically get about seven years of service from the dogs in its unit. That means within three or four years, the entire unit will have turned over and no dogs will be trained to detect cannabis.