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Drug, bomb-sniffing dogs at disposal of high school

Should the Sunnyside School District ever feel the need to deploy drug or bomb sniffing dogs into its schools, it'll be able to thanks to a contract approved at the regularly scheduled meeting of the board of directors last night, Thursday.

Dog handler Kris Johnson of Dogwood Kennels told the Daily Sun News she sent out a letter to Yakima Valley schools detailing that the services are now available in this area and it's possible that other school boards will approve similar contracts in the coming weeks. It doesn't mean, per se, that dogs will immediately be deployed in schools. "The program isn't there to get the kids in trouble. It's there as a prevention," she said.

"I don't want my kids, let alone anybody else's, exposed to it if they don't have to be," she said.

It's not that it's particularly scary. It's just that kids often think they can outsmart the dogs. It's a good time, she said, for students to learn good choices and bad choices. "There's a chance to turn it over, a chance to make the right decision," she said. And, she added, "Nobody gets singled out. The dogs don't care. If it's there, it's there and they're going to find it."

At last night's meeting, School Board Director Lorenzo Garza asked if there was a set period of time as to when dogs might enter Sunnyside schools.

Superintendent Rick Cole emphasized, "Ryan (Maxwell) will decide as to when, why and how he wants these dogs in his facility."

The contract is to pay Dogwood Kennels, owned by Nellice and Clair Johnson, $400 per visit to a school. Dogs would spend a minimum of four hours on the job searching for drugs, weapons and explosives.

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