How trained dogs could make schools safer.

This suggestion will lead to concerns that there will be more children claiming the dog ate their homework, but the idea of using dogs to protect our schools is deadly serious. Rather than asking 72-year old kindergarten teacher Miss Mildred to pack heat, we need to place explosive and weapon detection dogs in our children’s schools.

The United States military spent billions of dollars trying to develop technology to detect the improvised explosive devices that maimed and murdered our soldiers overseas. But none of the equipment the Defense Department has produced compares to the effectiveness of the dogs that were deployed.

A dog’s nose is 1000 times more sensitive than a human’s. According to a report by Auburn University, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection has more than 800 canine teams that work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorist threats, stop the flow of illegal narcotics, and detect unreported currency, concealed humans, or smuggled agriculture products.”

Today explosive and weapons detection canines are being used by the NFL, Kentucky Derby, and Masters golf tournament. Southern Pines-based K2 Solutions was the leading supplier of bomb detection dogs to the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, K2 dogs protect you at concerts and Hurricanes games at the PNC Center. Dogs from Southern Pines were deployed at this year’s Country Music Awards in Nashville, the Denver presentation of “Hamilton” and the Super Bowl. One of the world’s most famous musical performers is in the process of contracting with K2 to have its dogs patrol every one of her concerts, regardless of where they are held.

The State Department is in the process of placing detection dogs at every “high-threat” U.S. embassy across the globe. Dogs found Osama bin Laden. Some of the applications being developed at K2 are mind boggling.

If you place a properly trained dog in a room and pump in air sucked out of a cargo container, the dog can tell you if there is an explosive in the container. This approach is more effective and far more efficient than manually inspecting the cargo.

With all these proven applications, it is unconscionable that we don’t have state or national programs for the use of dogs to protect our most valuable asset, our children.

Weapons detection dogs come in many sizes and breeds. Some are docile and playful, such as Labradors who have followed people with concealed weapons around football stadiums and laid at their feet when they sat down so that security officers could frisk the offender.

Others, such as German Shepherds, can be taught to attack anyone on command who is carrying a weapon or explosive device. Belgian Malinois and several mixed breeds are also used.

Consider where within the airport the devastating bomb attacks occurred in Brussels and Ankara—in the lobby before passing through security. Dogs could have identified these threats and saved countless lives.

A weapons detection dog supervised by a trained person can screen 150 students per minute. Not many schools have that much foot traffic. They can be placed in high-traffic choke points during class changes, and search lockers between classes. Simply the presence of a detection dog would be a meaningful deterrent.

The breed deployed can be tailored to the threat risk of the school. For example, an elementary school might choose a friendly breed, which the students would come to know and love, while a suburban high school might opt for a more aggressive canine.

Dogs alone are not a silver bullet to ensure 100 percent safety. We still need people in law enforcement who actually do something when a teenager posts on Facebook that he plans to shoot up his school. And we need security officers who have the courage to enter the school when a terrorist opens fire on innocent children. But detection dogs would certainly be a huge step in the right direction.

If we can use dogs to protect our soldiers, concert goers, football fans and overseas diplomats, why can’t we use them to protect our children?

Michael Jacobs serves on the board of K2 Solutions, which provides threat mitigation and canine detection services.

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