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Supreme Court ruling influencing use of drug dogs

VERNON COUNTY, Wis. - K9's are one of the most valuable tools for law enforcement, but a new ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is influencing the way dogs can be used to search for drugs.

Drug-sniffing dogs are able to detect odors that humans sometimes can't.

For about the past year, K9's Myk and Lars have been valuable tools for the Vernon County Sheriff's Department.

"He's tracked people that have run from us, he's helped find lost people (and) we've found numerous narcotics together, so it's been quite the adventure together," said Deputy and K9 handler Adam Malin.


But now a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week may limit the way the dogs can be used in the field.

The decision stems from a situation in Florida in which police brought a drug dog onto a property without a warrant, and the dog smelled drugs from the front porch.

Officers used that information to get a search warrant.

The court said that violated the homeowner's rights.

Vernon County Sheriff John Spears said the court's decision holds the department more accountable in similar situations.

"If any law enforcement agency has a case involving those particular situations, you know what that ruling is now," said Spears. "Even in a situation where we can go solely on a K9 or solely on a person's information, if we have the time and the opportunity to obtain a search warrant, that just makes it so much more solid."

Vernon County deputies said tapping into other search techniques is just as important to keep the community safe.

"You're going to do more investigating, you're going to look at some light (electricity) bills, you're going to maybe do some controlled buys out of the place, and then you're going to get the search warrant, maybe use the dog to build your report," said Deputy Brian James. "The dog's there for a tool, so we'll use it."

Throughout their time working with the Vernon County Sheriff's Department, the Sheriff said, the K9s have detected drugs just about every week they've been on the job.

This is the second Supreme Court decision made this year on the use of drug-sniffing dogs.

The court ruled earlier, that extensive records aren't needed in order to use the dog's work in court.

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