Drug dogs sending message of safety to Clayton schools

By Johnny Jackson

Raven is an 80-pound, four-year-old black Labrador retriever. And he has but one toy in a sawn segment of fire hose covering a 6-inch long piece of quark.

Afterall, he is a working detective. And although he doesn't bother with idle playfulness, according to his handler Ashely Marratt, "he's a cupcake."

Marratt is owner of the Georgia-based franchise of Interquest Detection Canines, a nationally recognized contraband detection and drug dog services provider.

Wednesday, Marratt put on a demonstration at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, teaching students, parents, and faculty alike about the county's new Canine Detection Program. And Raven helped.

Raven is one of two canine detectives in Marratt's squad. Jordy is a three-year-old English springer spaniel, who will actually tour several Clayton County high and middle schools this year. Jordy will seek out abusive and illegal substances such as alcohol, prescription pills, drugs, and weaponry as part of the county's preventive and deterrent measures to make schools safer, drug free environments.

"Our intention is not to catch the students," Marratt said. "Our intention is to deter them and educate them by what we do.

"Many people are concerned that dogs are aggressive, but our dogs are not aggressive, they have aggressive training. Once people understand our concept, many become much more comfortable with us."

Interquest is a private company. Marratt said that the schools she and Jordy tour will not be under lock down in contrast to some government agency that might require facilities to be locked down.

She said her canines are able to walk among students, a difference major between Interquest Detection Canines and like programs.

Wednesday she attempted to help a few parents aware of their purpose in a demonstration and question-and-answer session.

"I love dogs," said Lee Casey, principal at Lovejoy Middle School. "I'm intrigued by the talents of the handlers and their dogs.

"I think this is going to be an important safety precaution for our school. Though, I'm disappointed that more parents weren't here. It will require some of our parents to make this a priority."

Foris Webb took his 12-year-old son Dominique to the demonstration.

"I was interested and I figured he should be informed too," Webb said. "I hope that it's a deterrent and that any students who come to learn can feel safer at school."