Budget cuts have quietly eliminated the Illinois prison system’s canine unit, once a point a pride for the Department of Corrections, reports the Quad City Times. According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the paper determined that Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2012 budget eliminated the positions of the five men who handled the agency’s canines. While the workers landed other jobs within the state’s sprawling prison system, the dogs were let go.
The department has used a county sheriff’s tracking dog at least once since then. The unit was in place primarily to search cells for drugs and contraband, and to sniff out problems with visitors and vendors. But they also had the ability to track down escapees. In 2004, reports show the state had three German shepherds, two Malinois, one Dutch shepherd and a Rottweiler. By 2012, however, there were only five canine handlers listed on layoff notices issued by the governor. Once those positions were eliminated, the dogs were let go.