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Drug Sniffing Dogs…an American Nightmare...Supreme Court to Rule on Reasonableness Under Fourth Amendment

Attorney Richard G. Marcil describes the harrowing ordeal of drug dogs, even as their effectiveness and reasonableness is questioned by two cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Halloween, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide two cases involving the reasonableness of using “drug-sniffing” dogs during warrantless searches of homes under the Fourth Amendment. In both cases police had no search warrant, but used a drug dog at the porch of the house to get one and justify entering the home; in the other, the defendant challenged whether a dog was proficient or skilled enough to correctly "sniff" methamphetamine.

Often portrayed as a hero, the “Drug Sniffing Dog” makes headlines daily. Sniffing their way to fame by putting the “bad guys” away, they are a vital part of our law enforcement.  They wear miniature badges and are deputized law enforcement officers of K-9 units.

However, few people really know the dark, horrible, and tragic side of the story of police dogs.

Government bureaucrats hand-pick the dogs, usually Shepherds, from the purest genetic stock. The dogs are purchased with taxpayer funds; last year alone U.S. cities spent $45.5 million on “rookie” dogs. The canines are then put through a rigorous gauntlet, in boot camps known to insiders as “Stalag 13.” (There are two boot camps in Michigan, both in the Upper Peninsula.) There, they break the dogs’ spirit, and destroy their sense of individual identity. In terms of brutality, these camps have been compared to some of the pit-bull fighting rings run in Mexico, and the dog-vs.-dog contests which in 2007 landed famed quarterback Michael Vick in federal prison for several years. 

When the dogs finally graduate, they are all introduced to cocaine, according to James Lassey of the American Humane Society - gradually at first, but always increasing in doses, until even their Milk BonesTM are laced with pure white powder. Some of the dogs become hooked to the point that they need to ingest 8 to 10 grams just to start out the day.

Naturally, police departments start them out with small busts at first. However, by the time the narcotics unit canines move into the big time (the best in the breed get a position with the D.E.A.) many have been reduced to sniveling, quivering addicts, snorting and sniffing like drug-crazed fiends, kilo after kilo.

According to Lassey, some dogs suffer “noses that chronically bleed, or have to have their stomachs pumped.” 

Sadly, a K-9 dog that has been in service for several years, after it gets “burned out,” is turned loose by law enforcement. Most such dogs cannot be adopted by families. Homeless, without children to play with or a bone to call their own, these addicted dogs wander the streets, urinating in alleyways, chasing hallucinations of cats.

Many people ask if a Drug Sniffing Dog can be rehabilitated. The answer is simple: Most will roll over, beg or play dead for one last “fix” or “hit” of spice, ecstasy or heroin. But it’s rare that they can kick their habit totally.

So, the two cases by the U.S. Supreme Court this week will examine whether such dogs can be reasonably relied upon to justify decisions to enter your home, invade your private space, and violate the Fourth Amendment‘s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Sadly, the Court is not focused on stopping cruelty to animals, but merely on whether we as a society are increasingly giving away our privacy rights and dismantling the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution, to government police and police dogs.

Frankly, it’s going to take a large, concerted effort on the part of all of us to stop drug dogs. Please, do your part today to help these dogs. Take them into your homes. Show them that living clean and sober can bring just as much joy as being strung out on meth or spice. 

Ultimately, some of these ex-drug dogs may even find relief in a Higher Power.  Imagine your sense of joy, as your Drug Sniffing Dog rediscovers himself and the simple joys of things like burying bones, bird hunting, and fetching slippers. 

Adopt a Drug Sniffing Dog today. Give these pooches a new lease on life.  Together we can make every day a “Drug Dog Day!” 

(Richard G. Marcil   www.MarcilAttorney.com 586-412-0444 is an attorney in Clinton Township practicing in criminal defense, divorce and family law, civil rights, and personal injury cases, as well as juvenile, probate, real estate and business litigation.

Note from Mr. Marcil: "Many thanks to Mike Todd of The Sputnik Drug Information Zone, whose original Internet satire on drug-sniffing dogs I borrowed heavily from. People who know me are aware that I abhor the use of drug-sniffing dogs and I can say from experience that scientific evidence clearly indicates such dogs are not always correct, and that police occasionally use the dogs as a pretext for justifying warrantless unconstitutional searches. In other words, when it comes to abandoning our freedom of privacy from government intrusion under the Fourth Amendment, to borrow from Shakespeare, 'The fault, dear Reader, lies not in our dogs but in ourselves.' ”  
 

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