Avondale happy with new K9 safety program – The Oakland Press
A different kind of security welcomed students from Avondale High School this year.
Each morning, students walked through the school’s main entrance and, with the help of trainer Lisa Zang, special ammunition dog Lucy sniffed around students and bags for anything suspicious. The program has just completed its first year in the district.
“It didn’t take long for the students to acclimatize,” Superintendent James Schwarz said. “At first they thought it might be potentially invasive, then they warmed to the dog and the idea.”
The program has been so successful that state Attorney General Dana Nessel has offered to pay the cost of a K-9 team for Oxford High School this fall.
Auburn Hills-based Elite Detection K9 dogs began training puppies at Avondale in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the start of the program to fall 2021.
The non-profit company established in 2018 specializes in breeding and training German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers to detect firearms and explosives. They provide K-9 teams to hospitals, businesses, and other locations.
In addition to Avondale, there has been a team of handlers and dogs at two schools in the Oak Park School District since January.
Training at Avondale involved acclimating the dogs to buildings and crowds, after hours of ammunition drills and demonstrations at assemblies to show students the purpose of the dog.
After examining the students of Avondale, Lisa and Lucy, a Labrador retriever, patrol the high school and can be sent to one of the six other buildings in the district if necessary.
The $35,000 annual cost of the program is covered by Avondale’s security budget, and Schwarz considers the first year a success.
“For us it was a win-win,” he said. “It doesn’t offer a foolproof solution, but it certainly offers a very viable solution to help with all of our other warranties.”
Greg Guidice, President and CEO of Elite Detection K9 agreed.
“I think it exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he said. “This kind of proactive security benefits everyone involved.”
Nessel and state lawmakers spent a day in January observing the program at Avondale. On Monday, Nessel sent a letter to the Oxford School Board recommending the program for the fall and offering to pay for the services.
“I believe this animal would provide a sense of security and comfort to students and staff at the school and improve building security without hardening the physical environment,” Nessel said. “I sincerely hope the council will consider my offer to provide a dog for Oxford High School.”
Schwarz admitted there was initial pushback at the idea of taxpayer dollars paying for a security dog, but that criticism has since faded.
“After the Oxford situation, everyone did a 180 and were all in support,” he said. “I would absolutely recommend it.”
Guidice said K-9 teams at Avondale and Oak Park have become part of the fabric of the schools.
“At Avondale they invited Lisa and Lucy to their all night senior party and at Oak Park we were invited to be part of their prom night and attend their graduation ceremony,” he said. -he declares. “These are three examples that they view the K-9 team as an integral part of their community and have them there for more than just class hours.”