New K-9 officer starts in Anderson County schools

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CLAXTON, Tenn. (WATE)- Anderson County students will see a new face in their schools starting in the 2019-20 school year.

For 10 years, K-9 “Al” has been working alongside the school resource officers in the school district.

Deputy Kim Lay, Al’s handler and the lead SRO, said that Al, 11, will be retiring because of his age.

Lay introduced Al’s future replacement, K-9 “Max,” to Claxton Elementary students for the first time on Monday.

She said the presence of a K-9 in the schools is very important. They will visit each of the 17 schools in the district throughout the school year.

“They’re utilized to detect drugs in the schools and keeping ours drug-free is very important for us,” Lay said.

K-9 Al has specialized training for narcotics and search and rescue.

Lay said they are training Max with the same specializations.

“We’re currently in training now, it’ll probably be in a couple of months, but our goal is to have (Max) certified on narcotics detection and search and rescue tracking,” Lay said.

Max is a 5-year-old Labrador retriever that the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department rescued from Knoxville Labrador Retriever Rescue.

Lay said she knew Al needed to retire soon, so she scoured pet rescues for the perfect replacement.

“This is his first week working, so he’s got to meet some of the students. It’s going really well. They’re excited also,” Lay said.

Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker said that adopting Max from a rescue saved the department thousands of dollars.

He said having a K-9 work with SROs has been great for the district and the department.

“It’s a segue into allowing the children to have something to engage the SRO officer about…he really kind of mellows it out and allows the kids to put their guard down,” Barker said.

K-9 Al and Max’s main jobs are to search the schools for drugs and help deter students from using them.

“We go around schools checking locker rooms, classrooms, gymnasiums, vehicles in the parking lot. Anything on school campus,” Lay said.

Students know that’s why K-9 Al and Max are at their schools.

“He can smell drugs,” 5th grader Lucas said.

“He basically protects the school,” 5th grader Elle said.

“I know that dogs have a great since of smell, so a dog could easily sniff out bad things around the school,” 5th grader Lucas said.

Lay said the furry officers are also helpful during Law Enforcement Against Drugs (L.E.A.D.) classes.

After L.E.A.D. class is over, students are able to pet K-9 Al or Max.

Lay said there was a reason why they chose another Labrador retriever to replace Al.

“Using a lab in the schools is important because they just got a friendly face and the kids love him,” she said.

The SROs will host a retirement party for K-9 Al in September.

K-9 Max is expected to be certified in narcotics detection within the next six to eight weeks, according to Lay.

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