By Woodrow Polston
Last week, Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller announced that because of changing laws, the sheriff’s office would be forced to retire their two K-9s that have been successful in service. Oller said that this was anticipated as a possibility since last November when Missourians voted to legalize recreational marijuana.
“As you all know, late last year, Amendment 3 to the Missouri Constitution was passed by Missouri voters, making recreational Marijuana legal in Missouri. While we are not interested in talking about anyone’s opinion or view about Amendment 3, this decision by the Missouri Citizens came with many consequences that have only been realized after the fact,” said Oller.
“One of those far-reaching consequences is what to do with Missouri’s Police Service Dogs. We have two police dogs, both of which have been in service for several years and are trained to detect narcotics that include marijuana. We have been working hard to address this issue for the past few months, and through a partnership with the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Audrain County Commission, we have brought the issue to a conclusion. We have been awarded a grant to fully fund the replacement of both of our police service dogs. It is with mixed emotions that we bring you this information about K9 Chal, our German shepherd dog, and K9 Apollo, our Belgian malinois, who will retire in the upcoming months. One month from today, they will be replaced by new, young, dual-purpose police dogs that are not imprinted to detect marijuana. They will be trained to detect methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine and their derivatives,” added Oller.
The two K-9s set to retire have been valuable assets to Audrain County, assisting the sheriff’s office in multiple successful tracks and apprehensions of suspects that have fled authorities. Oller said that his office is heartbroken about the decision.
“We’re heartbroken to see these two loyal, dedicated servants removed from our roster, as they are both solid, healthy, well trained, hardworking members of our agency,” said Oller. “On the flip side, we’re very happy that they are both being given the opportunity to retire while they’re healthy. Being realistic, Chal is nearly 7 years old, and Apollo is over 7 years old, so it’s very likely their retirement was soon coming regardless. Usually, illness or injury is the cause for a police dog to be retired, but these guys now can live out their remaining years as normal, healthy pets. I am in the process of working with the County Commission to ensure Chal and Apollo stay with their handlers and their families through retirement, for the remainder of their lives. While we’ve known this was coming for a while, we have tried to stay quiet about it, but word has since started leaking out. While we have not deployed our dogs for street level narcotics detection work since December of 2022 (other than schools, which Amendment 3 does not apply to) we have kept them in service for patrol utility work—tracking, apprehension, article (evidence) location searches, etc. In fact, Apollo just had a successful track and apprehension of felony burglary suspects just a few weeks ago.
K9 Chal and K9 Apollo will remain in service for patrol/utility work until our new dogs are selected and trained to certification. Selection will take place on May 25 at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, Pa., and we’ll introduce you at that time.
That said, over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting each dog’s career. Until then, we will be working hard at giving Chal and Apollo the training that they, and our families need for their transition to retirement, which will be a process.
I would like to say thanks for all the support the Sheriff’s Office and our K9 program has received over the past several years, and we look forward to continuing this program to aid in the safety of our communities and deputies,” he added.