American K9 considering training on additional properties

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WALTERS—A Walters company that trains dogs for the military expects to wait a month or two before asking Southampton County officials to use additional properties.

The controversy created by American K9 Interdiction’s request to train Labrador retrievers to sniff out wartime explosives on nine properties prompted five or six others to offer their land in Southampton County, said Paul Roushia, company co-owner. Another dozen or so in Isle of Wight County also offered the use of their property.

“The phone has been ringing fast and furious,” Roushia said. “One (in Southampton County) offered 436 acres yesterday.”

American K9 earlier this month withdrew five properties in Southampton County when residents opposed the training. During a Monday hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals, the company withdrew two more — the former Boykins and Ivor elementary schools.

The Board of Zoning Appeals voted to allow training on the remaining two parcels, including All-American Auto, a junkyard at 36465 General Mahone Blvd. in the Berlin-Ivor area. No simulated gunfire would be used there. The training will involve dogs searching through the junk vehicles for explosives.

The board also approved training on a 45-acre Crowder-White Excavating property at General Thomas Highway and Shady Brook Trail outside Franklin. As a compromise, American K9 suggested using simulated gunfire from 8:30

a.m. to 3:30 p.m. up to three days a week as long as the days are not consecutive or on weekends. American K9 uses propane and oxygen to simulate the sound of an AK47 machine gun.

Roushia said Wednesday he expects to begin training on the two properties this week.

“We’re going to slowly go ahead and train at those locations and see how it works and prove we are good neighbors,” he said.

Roushia then hopes to ask the Board of Zoning Appeals to approve other locations, including Bear Path Acres Animal Education Center on Route 258 near the North Carolina line. Debbie Jeter, founder and chief executive officer, offered the 4,000 acres that surrounds her facility.

“Out here, they can get the exposure that they cannot get anywhere else,” Jeter said. “There are no neighbors. Yes, it’s loud, but you get 50 to 60 children out here yelling and screaming …”

She also has goats, which the dogs are trained to be around so the goats won’t distract them when looking for explosives.