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Community invited to meet school dog

By Greg Gelpi

Jordy, a 3-year-old English springer spaniel, who will be brought in to search Clayton County schools, will be introduced to the community tonight.

Ashley Marratt, the president of the Georgia office of Interquest Detection Canines, which has contracted with Clayton County schools on the pilot program, will demonstrate the dog's abilities and how he will be used to detect guns, drugs, alcohol and prescription medications. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center, 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway, Jonesboro.

The community will see that any concerns about the safety of the dog is unfounded, Marratt said.

"Once you see the dog you won't have any questions," she said. "He speaks for himself."

Marratt said that Interquest dogs differ from police dogs because they are trained first for obedience and second for scent.

They are never trained to be aggressive, she said, and, unlike police dogs, they are trained to detect contraband, such as prescription medicine.

Marratt said that Interquest has been providing services with Henry County schools since January and with Carroll County and Washington County school systems longer.

"On the whole I think we've done this in over 10,000 schools," she said of the company that has been in business for about 25 years. "It's not like we're reinventing the wheel."

George Eckerle, the principal of Luella High School, one of the two Henry County high schools using Interquest, said that there have been no problems with the dogs.

The worst thing that Jordy has found so far has been cigarettes, but his presence has acted as a deterrence, Eckerle said. The students constantly ask when the dog will be in the school conducting searches.

At the end of last school year, the company's 83 dogs trained for detecting contraband had about 6,500 alerts on drugs, 9,600 alerts on prescription medication, 3,900 alerts on alcohol and 3,900 alerts on gun powder nationwide, Marratt said.

Clayton County schools' pilot program will bring trained dogs on to the campuses of Mt. Zion, Forest Park and Lovejoy high schools through the end of the school year. A report will be made to the Clayton County Board of Education at the end of the program to determine whether or not to continue using the dogs.

The school system is negotiating the cost of the pilot program.