Military dogs may be trained in Southampton County

Published 9:40 am Friday, August 5, 2011

COURTLAND—A Walters company would like to use nine properties in Southampton County to train its dogs for the military and police use.

Before doing so, American K-9 Interdiction will need permission from county officials.

The county Board of Zoning Appeals will hear the request to train the Labrador retrievers on the properties at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at the Southampton County Government Center in Courtland. Locations include:

• The former Boykins Elementary School at 17219 Pittman Road, owned by the county

• Ivor Elementary School at 7486 Proctor’s Bridge Road, also owned by the county

• Parcels on Melon Field and Three Bees roads in Newsoms, both owned by Denise and J.C. Bunn III.

• Parcels on Odom Chapel Road, East Depot Street and south of General Thomas Highway west of Cypress Bridge Road, all in Newsoms, belonging to the Joan Bunn Life Estate

• Property on Crossroads Drive near Franklin, owned by Green Waste Recycling

• Property at 36465 General Mahone Boulevard owned by Charles and Kathleen Clark in the Berlin-Ivor area.

County Community Development Director Beth Lewis said military dog training is not permitted in the county, but can be granted through a temporary special-use exception.

The Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision is final, although if turned down, American K-9 Interdiction can appeal to the County Circuit Court, Lewis said.

Paul Roushia, co-owner of American K-9 Interdiction, said property owners are offering the use of their land at no charge.

“We have multiple properties in Isle of Wight County,” said Roushia, noting it gives dogs diversity.

“These are extremely intelligent animals,” he said. “They learn the game so we have to have multiple training locations.”

In the application filed with the county, American K-9 Interdiction explained that these dogs are used for detecting explosives and other security purposes. Operating in Isle of Wight County since 2008, the company would train at different locations every day, but it would not occur at the same location day after day.

The hours will generally be from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each training group is comprised of trainers and about 15 dogs. It is possible that as many as two training groups might be at any one location on any one day.

Typically, trainers set up a situation and engage one dog in training at a time. The training activity involves the detection of different types of explosives.

Small quantities of explosives are hidden on the property, and the dogs are trained to detect the explosives. The explosives are inert and never detonated.

During training for the detection of explosives, dogs are sometimes subjected to simulated gunfire to condition them to the sounds they might hear in a real-life situation in the combat field.

J.C. Bunn didn’t hesitate to volunteer the use of his land and his mother’s for training dogs for military and security purposes.

“I would encourage everyone who loves this country to do the same thing,” said Bunn, a trainer for American K-9 Interdiction.

“It’s one of the most heroic efforts I have been involved in,” said Bunn, who went to work for American K-9 after losing his job of 24 years in May 2010 with International Paper.

“They’re being trained for explosive detection,” he continued. “Instead of being trained to find a bird, they find the smell of a bomb to keep a soldier from stepping on it.”