Could Gunpowder Detection Dogs Help Prevent School Shootings?

Several school districts in Michigan may soon be hiring detection dogs on a contract basis. The dogs won’t be sniffing out drugs in students’ lockers and backpacks but something with the potential to be far deadlier: gunpowder and explosives.

Trained dogs are already used for this purpose at airports, sports events, parades and other places where there are lots of people gathered, but they’re increasingly being used in schools, Gregory Guidice, owner of Elite Detection K9 in Rochester Hills, Mich., told the Detroit Free Press.

The United States Police Canine Association, the oldest and largest certification group for police dogs, is also seeing an increase in private firms supplying detection dogs. “There’s more work than law enforcement can provide work for,” David Ferland, the group’s executive director, told the Detroit Free Press.

Guidice said his company has been talking to some Michigan school districts that are anticipating fall rollouts. “We are seeing more and more schools looking for this type of security because it’s proactive,” he said.

The schools would use the gunpowder and explosives detection dogs to regularly sweep the campus and to safeguard extracurricular student activities, like football games and plays.

Dogs trained to sniff out gunpowder and explosives are typically Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labradors. Along with a willingness to be trained, the dogs must have calm temperaments and not be stressed out by crowds of people and noise.

When these dogs detect something, they sit down beside it rather than scratch at it, as drug-sniffing dogs do. “It’s a passive response,” Guidice told the Detroit Free Press. “If there’s an explosive in there, you don’t want the dog ripping at it.”

A spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools Community District confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that the district is considering having its own K-9 officer who could detect explosives. It wouldn’t be the Detroit school district’s first police dog—it used to have its own K-9 unit, but it was disbanded. Like many other school districts, Detroit’s currently contracts with the police department for detection dogs on an as-needed basis.

Could these dogs’ regular presence in schools help prevent mass shootings? Guidice thinks more dogs in schools makes sense. “It just makes it a harder target,” he said. “It’s much more of a proactive approach.”

In 2014, a black Labrador named QT became the first gunpowder-sniffing dog to work at schools in the United States, Randy Reaves, safety and security director for Calhoun County schools in Alabama, told The Anniston Star at the time. “We feel like the dog is going to bring a sense of relief to children,” Superintendent Joe Dyar told the newspaper.

But just as it does in regard to drug-detection dogs on school campuses, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objects to using gunpowder-sniffing dogs. “Is this what we want in our public schools? Treating our students like criminals?” Susan Watson, then-executive director of the Alabama chapter of the ACLU, wrote to The Star at the time. The dogs violate students’ privacy, she wrote, and pointed out that “any number of students might cause a dog to alert for participating in completely legal activities, like target practice.”

These are valid points. On the other hand, rather than serving as four-legged narcs, dogs that exclusively sniff out gunpowder and explosives on school campuses could have the potential to save lives. At least this seems like a less hare-brained preventive measure than, say, arming teachers. What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below.

Photo credit: State Farm/Flickr

91 comments

Thomas M
Thomas M2 days ago

thanks for posting

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Nena C
Nena C2 days ago

awesome idea, schools do not need teachers w/guns period

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Frances G
Past Member 6 days ago

tyfs

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Mia B
Marta B6 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Maria P
Maria P9 days ago

Thanks

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Richard B
Richard B12 days ago

thanks very much

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Ganaisha C
Ganaisha Calvin13 days ago

I hate that we live in a time where we need to ask these kinds of questions about children's safety

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Ingrid A
Isabel A15 days ago

Thank you

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD17 days ago

tyfs

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Leanne K
Leanne K20 days ago

Great, the dog gets shot first. Some solution

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