A company is working to keep schools safe by arming them with specialized dogs who are trained to stop shooters.
Skool Dogs Inc., was created in 2018 after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida.
The company works to train dogs to react to active shooters and work with a dedicated handler on campus at schools, Brandon Womack, the company’s managing partner, said in a phone interview.
Skool Dogs said it does an assessment of the school before choosing a dog, based on the type of students who attend. After choosing a dog, the animal is trained over 8-12 weeks learning not only basic obedience, but to react to the sound of gunfire.
Rather than having a “bite” command in the manner of a typical police K-9, Womack said the dogs they train are triggered by the sound of gunfire itself, running immediately toward a shooter.
The dog can also be “activated” to sweep lockers and bags to search for guns or ammunition, Womack said.
After the dog is fully certified, its handler from the school district comes to the Skool Dogs facility to train for two weeks. Over that time, the handler learns necessary commands, what the dog’s alerts look like and how to best care for the animal.
Once the dog arrives at the school, representatives from Skool Dog come with it to introduce the animal to the campus. Part of that introduction includes a full demonstration for students, teachers and area emergency crews too.
“Ultimately, we know if a shooter happens, it’s not just going to be the local police departments responding. We want them to know what that looks like when we deploy that dog,” Womack said. “So we go and give them a full demo with blank guns and everything so they can see what that looks like.”
Currently, there are three school districts with Skool Dogs. The first dog, named for Parkland victim Meadow Pollack, is at Cumberland County Technical Education Center in New Jersey.
A second dog, Sailor, was deployed to the Garaway Local School District in Sugarcreek, Ohio.
The latest school to get a Skool Dog is The Village School in Naples, Florida. There, Colby was paired with school resource officer Daniel Bledsoe. According to Skool Dogs, Colby is able to detect firearms, ammunition, gun powder and black powder.
“She allows us to do our job better and then have resources to detect or deter if need be,” Bledsoe told WBBH. “She will not hesitate to do what she is trained to do. If there are gunshots, she will actually take the K-9 handler toward them.”
Dennis Chapman, the head of school for The Village School, told WBBH that the money to pay for Colby was raised through donations from parents.
Womack said that Skool Dogs has just finalized a contract with a fourth school district in Utah.
The total cost of the dog and training is approximately $25,000, Womack said.
Womack said he’s heard from dozens of schools wanting more information about Skool Dogs in the days after the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
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