Dogs to visit Burbank schools to sniff for drugs, alcohol

Dogs trained to sniff out drugs and alcohol will make 60 surprise visits to school campuses in Burbank over the next academic year under a new contract approved by district officials.

The $11,100 agreement approved during last week’s school board meeting with Interquest Detection Canines marks nearly a decade since the district first hired an agency to have trained dogs perform random checks for controlled substances on Burbank Unified campuses.

Across Los Angeles County, Interquest Detection Canines sends Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers or border collies to about 160 schools, including Burbank’s Providence High and to Glendale public schools where they sniff students’ cars, backpacks, purses and lockers.

The dogs are trained to pick up the scent of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and ecstasy. They can also detect beer and liquor and prescription medications, such as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. The dogs also sniff out ammunition, fire crackers and pipe bombs.

At the moment of detection, the dogs are trained to sit near their discovery.

“It’s a deterrent,” said Scott Edmonds, president of Interquest Detection Canines. “We want the kids to know the dogs come randomly and unannounced, and it helps them make better decisions.”

Burbank educators prize the program for working to convince students to avoid bringing drugs to campus.

“Ideally, you want students to not need intimidation or use drugs,” said Hani Youssef, director of safety and student services for Burbank Unified. “Unfortunately, students are kids.”

During the 2011-12 school year, Burbank High students committed 24 offenses that were tied to suspensions for possessing drugs or alcohol, according to the latest state data available.

At Burroughs High, 26 similar offenses committed by students that year were tied to suspensions.

Among Jordan, Luther and Muir middle schools in the same year, there were over 25 offenses tied to suspensions or expulsions for possession of drugs, alcohol or related paraphernalia.

District officials, though, don’t have data to show how many of those violations were tied to the canine visits. But according to Youssef, they plan to track that information over the coming school year.

-- Kelly Corrigan,

Follow on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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