Breaking News
More () »

K-9 training company partners with Hampton to keep guns out of schools

These dogs are trained to sniff out firearms, even if a person is in a crowd or walking down a hallway. The veteran-owned company hopes to get K-9s in more schools.

HAMPTON, Va. — As communities across the country discuss ways to make schools safer, a veteran-owned group thinks four-legged friends can be part of the solution.

American K-9 Interdiction, a dog training company based in Hampton Roads, said they're working with school leaders, including in Hampton City Schools, to keep weapons out of the classroom.

"We bring the dogs in, and we are there when the kids first arrive. We are also there during class change," said James Overton, director of business development for AK9I. "The most important thing at the end of the day, is keeping the kids safe." 

RELATED: Looking to get tested for COVID-19? Some K9s in Newport News could help.

These dogs are trained to sniff out firearms, even if a person is in a crowd or walking down a hallway. Normally, K-9s are only coached to find things that aren’t moving, like a vehicle or a bag, according to Overton. 

“So, let’s say that I am the person who has a gun, and I decide to walk into the school. When I am walking, that gun is leaving an odor behind, and what we’ve done is trained the dog to find that odor and find that person in the crowd,” Overton said.  

On Friday, the dogs and their handlers trained at the Hampton Fire Academy, located in an old school building. The environment prepares the team for real-life experiences. The K-9s are currently undergoing the third week of a 14-week training schedule. 

The dogs are social, too. The trainers said they're not taught to apprehend anyone, and they work well with children.

"We want the kids to grow up in an environment where they don’t have to worry and they can feel safe and secure," said Overton. 

This past school year, AK9I contracted Hampton City Schools to provide K-9s in various schools. Overton, who is also a parent, called school division leaders "proactive" regarding the safety of its students and staff. 

The company said they work hand-in-hand with school resource officers, and with staffing shortages impacting police departments everywhere, the extra help eases the burden on local officers.

RELATED: Biden signs landmark gun violence compromise

“More school systems should look at this as an alternative to adding an extra layer of security," said Jillian Maloney, whose son attended Hampton City Schools last academic year. 

Maloney said the presence of the dogs gave her an extra sense of peace, as she often feels anxiety in wake of school shootings happening across the nation. 

"My son would come home and say, 'Hey mom, they have the dogs in school today. It made me feel better about being there,'" Maloney said. "I don't think arming teachers is the answer, but this may be a good solution." 

RELATED: Nearly 77% of Texas school employees don't want to be armed to confront shooter, survey says

Overton hopes to receive state funding to place K-9 programs in more schools. 

Overton and many on the staff are veterans. The company is approved by Veteran's Affairs to receive GI Bill benefits to train former military. For many of the veterans, Overton said working with the dogs helps the men and women find a new purpose in life. 

“We’re essentially saving lives on both ends of the leash," said Overton. "We’re saving the lives of the people we are protecting and also saving the lives of the veteran that is holding that leash."

Before You Leave, Check This Out