JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) _ Federal officials fined Johnson City $6,000 for removing catalytic converters from police cruisers in a bid to protect police dogs' sense of smell.

The smell of the anti-pollution devices temporarily deadens the dogs' sniffing power, police dog handlers say. Law enforcement officials say they may need those valuable minutes when tracking a suspect.

A city official two years ago authorized removing catalytic converters from cruisers transporting police dogs. The Environmental Protection Agency found out about it in July and fined the city $6,000.

The EPA cited the city for removing converters from three police cars and other emission control devices from a fourth. Federal law allows a penalty of up to $2,500 per violation, said Rich Ackerman, an EPA section chief.

John Campbell, city manager, said Wednesday the city may appeal. ''That seems a little out of line,'' he said. He said the city otherwise has had a good compliance record with the Clean Air Act.