Drug dogs trained to ignore marijuana join Rifle police
As he enters the twilight of his career, Tulo, the Rifle Police Department’s drug-sniffing dog, will get to watch his successors grow into the role that has put him among the most famous canines on the Western Slope.
Thanks to fundraising by New Castle’s 12-year-old Carter Faulk, the Rifle PD’s newest members, Jax and Makai, were welcomed to town at Rifle City Council on Wednesday night. They will eventually follow in Tulo’s pawprints and become members of Rifle’s K9 Unit.
Though Tulo has had a long and successful run with the department, he was trained to sniff for marijuana — which can complicate prosecution. Because marijuana is legal in the state, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in July that a dog alerting to drugs in general does not provide legally sound probable cause for a search.
“Dogs that can sniff for marijuana get called into question more in court and can make things more difficult,” Officer Garrett Duncan explained.
Learning that Tulo would be retiring prompted young Carter Faulk, who wants to be a cop when he grows up, to help. He was at Wednesday’s council meeting with his mom, Michaela.
Carter thought about starting a lemonade stand, but instead created a GoFundMe campaign to get Rifle’s police new dogs. In just a few weeks the fund raised $1,540 to purchase Jax and Makai.
Duncan, handler for Tulo and Makai, said that he expects both puppies to be out in the field by this time next year.
“We are just working on the basics right now,” he explained. “It’s all repetition and positive reinforcement.”
Duncan has been a handler for the department since 2010, working with Tulo since he came to Rifle.
Officer Jared Bartunex was recently named a second handler for the department and will work with Jax.
Jax and Makai will stay at their respective handlers’ home when not working.
Tulo, 9, is around the typical age of retirement for police dogs, so new dogs would eventually have to be phased in regardless of the marijuana issue. He will continue to serve as the face of the Rifle Police Department.
Without a K9 budget, Faulk’s fundraising was welcomed by the Rifle PD.
On Wednesday, Rifle City Council and Police Chief Tommy Klein named Faulk an honorary canine officer and presented him with a plaque for his achievement.
Klein said he hopes Jax and Makai will serve Rifle for the next 10 years or more, and told Carter to give him a call in seven or eight years about joining the force himself.
With a goal of $2,500, Carter is still looking for donations to pay for vet bills and other costs. To help support the K9 Unit visit http://tinyurl.com/RiflePDfund.
As part of a national effort to curb abuse of medications, Northwest Colorado agencies are seeking help from residents.