Meet the K9 unit keeping Rikers Island safe from drugs, contraband

Rikers Island, the city’s embattled jail complex in Queens, boasts a "paw patrol" of its own: over 40 dogs that keep the island safe. 

"Calendar year to date, we have not had an overdose death," Louis Molina, the commissioner of the Department of Correction, told FOX 5 NY in an exclusive interview. "K9s are part of that strategy."

The dogs sniff for seven illegal drugs and other prohibited contraband, such as electronics. They live and work with their handlers.

In recent days, one dog sniffed out an envelope intended for an inmate that later tested positive for methamphetamine. Another detected liquid cocaine.

The dogs are meant to make safer a jail that has been riddled with problems. 

A judge is expected to soon decide whether the federal government should take control of it. 

QUEENS, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Views of the New York City jails on Rikers Island, as seen from a departing flight from Laguardia Airport on December 10, 2022 in Queens, New York. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Views of the New York City jails on Rikers Island. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Molina said the city is plenty capable. He points to drops in slashings and stabbings, and a marked improvement in staff absenteeism.

Mayor Eric Adams has voiced his support for Molina since appointing him to the post in January 2022.