In wake of the tragic mass shootings across the United States, K-12 schools and districts are implementing different school safety strategies to prevent active shooter incidents as well as protect students and staff in case of an active assailant emergency. One initiative that may be implemented in some states, including Minnesota, involves training dogs to stop potential shooters and take down gunmen.
How Active Shooter K9 Came to Fruition
According to KSTP News, a law enforcement officer helped to create the concept with U.S. Navy combat veteran, Joshua Morton, the founder of Iowa-based Canine Tactical. Together they developed Active Shooter K9. With the uptick of K-12 school shootings and violence incidents, their mission is to eventually have an Active Shooter K9 team in schools across the country to protect and keep students safe.
Morton spent 5 tours overseas and told NBC Washington, “I did not expect to see what I saw overseas, to see it in schools. But, unfortunately, it's happening. I've been trying to find this solution for a very long time." After returning home he put his skills as a canine handler into action by training police dogs to detect drugs or explosives. After the shocking rise of mass school shootings, Morton set out to find the right dog that he could train to run towards the sound of gunfire.
Active Shooter K9 Training
Joshua Morton is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and K9 operator. He has knowledge and experience cloning, selecting, training, and handling dogs who become ‘Active Shooter K9s’. Active Shooter K9s are not your average working canine. They’re specifically identified as a cut above the best and have a precise disposition and skill set.
Morton’s company, Canine Tactical, “trains canines using the Morton Method from puppies to adulthood onsite at Canine Tactical… The Morton Method begins with identifying the right combination of skills and traits to develop specialized ‘Active Shooter K9s’ paired with elite handlers (priority training provided to veterans with combat experience), coupled with quality training as they grow, providing the only path forward to defeat dynamic situations with on-site, real time response to the threat. Only clones with specific ability and this advanced training can be called an ‘Active Shooter K9’.”
Here's an example of Active Shooter K9’s in action:
The Active Shooter K9 Controversy
After NBC Washington shared the Active Shooter K9 story on their Twitter account, it quickly sparked controversy as many were critical of the idea that dogs should be sent into an active shooter situation. Some called it “animal cruelty” and “dog abuse” and thought gun control legislation is a better idea.
USA Today shares that one Twitter user wrote, “"So, people running *from* the shooter can’t prevent themselves from dying, but a dog sent knowingly *toward* the shooter is supposed to survive whilst taking down an active shooter w/ an AR? This is animal cruelty in service to humans who refuse to simply take the guns". Another wrote, “"Let’s thank the brave school children and doggos who sacrifice themselves in the name of protecting a murder’s right to stockpile weapons".
Although these concerns are valid, Morton explains that the idea of sending dogs toward the danger when everybody else is running away is certainly not taken lightly. Along with extensive training based on the intelligence and stability traits of each dog, every Active Shooter K9 is fitted with a specialized bulletproof vest. They work with trained handlers to ensure the Active Shooter K9 team is ready in case of an emergency. 18-year law enforcement veteran, Matt Seitz, explains “In the event there is an active shooter, that first gunshot, that initial act of violence, that handler can release the dog and the dog can go past all the students and staff and engage the threat… This dog is a working dog and he's at work when he's at school, and he has a job to protect and make this message positive”.
School Safety for K-12 Schools
The topic of school safety will not go away anytime soon. In wake of horrific tragedies such as the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, K-12 schools as well as law makers and Governors are taking strides to increase school safety initiatives. School districts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Texas have inquired, and a school district in northeast Iowa will be the first in the country to have an Active Shooter K9 team in place in the new year.
As well as the Active Shooter K9 program, schools have discovered school safety technology to help support their initiatives to keep students, faculty, and staff safe in case of an emergency. Both the States of Oklahoma and Louisiana recently funded statewide implementations of the Rave Panic Button app, which allows users to instantly connect with both 9-1-1, first responders, and school staff at once. Last week, Oklahoma State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said, “This incredible mobile technology provides critical data to first responders so that at the simple press of a button on a smart phone, we have great accuracy in communication”, according to Government Technology News. "Not only does this tool provide swift information, but timely, accurate information where seconds can make the difference of life and death in a variety of different hazards," she said.
With K-12 schools looking to bolster their school safety initiatives, the time is now to put effective safety plans in place whether it be with Active Shooter K9 teams, or school safety technologies. Interested in learning about our school safety communication suite? Click the link below!
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