By Dr. Becker
The December 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and other school shootings and violent incidents in recent years, have left concerned adults across the country wondering what can be done to keep children safe at school.
Two dog-training organizations hope to provide at least a partial solution by exploring ways in which specially trained dogs can protect schools.
American Success Dog Training
Mark Gomer, owner of American Success Dog Training in Cincinnati, put his first full-time safety dog to work in September at a high school in Green Township, Ohio. The cost for the dog was $10,000.
Atticus, a one-year-old Dutch Shepherd, has been trained to find drugs and guns and attack intruders, while remaining socialized to people, especially youngsters. Atticus has been conditioned to perform his duties in the midst of typical school day distractions like locker doors slamming, school bells, and marching bands.
Atticus spends his time at school working with two security guards. At night he goes home with the school principal.
K9s4KIDs, part of K9s4COPs, is a non-profit run by Kristi Schiller in Houston, Texas. Schiller launched her school-focused program at the suggestion of the law enforcement agencies she works with.
Schools can apply for a dog, and when a school is chosen, K9s4KIDs provides a fully trained dog free of charge. It’s up to school officials to determine who will be the dog’s handler, who the dog will live with, and what specific tasks the dog should be taught.
School Safety Dog Programs Are Still in Their Infancy
Since these and other school safety dog programs are in their infancy, it remains to be seen how schools will cover the expense of providing veterinary care, food, a home and handler for the dogs. And there will also be questions about the potential for health problems and distractions the dogs may cause.
The dogs will need to be very well socialized to deal with students who will initially be extremely excited by their presence. However, experts in school safety believe the relationships the kids build with the dogs and the sense of well being they create will be long lasting and life-changing.