The Howell County Sheriff's Department on Thursday evening announced the retirement of one of its K9 officers, Otis, from narcotics detection work. Officials with the agency said in a social media post the retirement was prompted by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri by voters in November 2022 and the beginning of recreational marijuana sales in early February.
Medical marijuana, requiring a card issued by the state and a prescription issued by a doctor for specific medical conditions, was made legal in 2018. With the passage of recreational marijuana, any Missourian at least 21 years old may purchase it from a state licensed dispensary, and it is still illegal for anyone younger than 21 to buy or possess.
Otis had been trained to detect marijuana as part of his duties, meaning he could indicate a "positive" hit for narcotics even though the drug is legal.
The department still has K9 officer Mark on duty, handled by Deputy Michael Pauly, and Mark will conduct narcotics searches excluding the detection of marijuana.
Otis was purchased by the Howell County Sheriff’s Office in January 2022 and assigned to Deputy First Class Travis Weaver, the department said in a post on its Facebook page. The team completed a four-week training program prior to being assigned to the Special Missions Division and attached to Patrol Division 1st Squad.
In the time since, officials said, Otis assisted with several notable incidents including numerous arrests and the dog was deployed multiple times for narcotics detection, aiding in the seizure of 1.6 pounds of methamphetamine, 239 capsules of fentanyl, 139 grams of cocaine, and hundreds of items of paraphernalia associated with illegal narcotics.
The dog was also deployed to assist with locating a 2-year-old boy, who had been reported missing for four hours. Upon their arrival, Deputy First Class Weaver and K9 Otis were quickly able to locate the child and reunite him with his parents, the department noted.
Otis has been involved at numerous functions at area schools across Howell County and several community outreach events. The dog will be retained by Weaver and certifications will be maintained in narcotics detection and tracking. Otis’ future includes narcotics searches and detection in schools and area searches for evidence and missing and wanted people.
The Howell County Sheriff’s Office thanked Weaver and Otis for their service to the citizens of Howell County.