American K9 expands to former Presbyterian Home

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

American K-9 Interdiction has opened a second location at the former Zuni Presbyterian Home to be used as a 62-bed dorm and additional facilities for dog handling trainees including a mock shipping station, mock airplane terminal and cafeteria. 

The acquisition included 12 buildings and 120 acres of land for $1.5 million, according to American K-9 Interdiction President Paul Roushia, and the addition will supplement the company’s 52-acre Walters location, where detection dogs are trained to track and find various drugs and bombs, among other training programs.  

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Roushia said that a resolution pertaining to canine detection dogs passed by Congress in October was a strong motivator in his decision to expand his facilities. The resolution calls on the Transportation Safety Administration to develop and issue standards of practices for the increased use of third-party canine bomb detection “teams,” which includes a dog and handler, for cargo screening.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The same resolution also calls for the development of a process to identify qualified nonfederal entities that can properly certify canine teams to the TSA’s standards. 

The legislation specifies that canine teams would be trained and certified for screening of air cargo, domestic and foreign air carriers, freight forwarders and shippers.  

Roushia, a U.S. Navy veteran, said that in addition to increasing his bomb detection training courses, he hopes to expand his “K-9s for Veterans” program, which, with the help of grant programs geared at veterans, provides them with a dog for companionship and trained for their protection at no cost.   

Roushia said that so far, improvements on the Zuni property have amounted to about $200,000 in addition to the $1.5 million for the land. In order to enact his full vision for the facility, Roushia said he needs an additional $10 million, and is currently seeking grant funding.  

Congress has promoted the use of canines in bomb detection by other legislation recently. One resolution in particular — The Domestic Explosives Detection Canine Capacity Building Act of 2017, directs the TSA to develop a decentralized domestic canine breeding network for bomb detection dogs. 

Roushia said that graduates of the dog handler program often earn salaries north of $50,000 annually, but they also must be willing to relocate to areas near international airports in the U.S.  

Training courses run between five and 13 weeks depending on the discipline, and the dog is included in the tuition cost. Courses are available for both dog handling and dog training for detection dogs (five weeks) and patrol dogs (eight weeks). An additional course provides certification in both the detection and patrol designation (13 weeks). 

Roushia said that 80 to 85 percent of students are U.S. military veterans. 

Like Roushia, K-9 Trainer Chris Pittman came into dog training after working with detection dogs in the U.S. Marine Corps. Pittman said that compared to humans, he preferred working with dogs. “All they want to do is work,” he said. 

In the entire K-9 program, Pittman has the only German shorthaired pointer.   

AK9I Student Armani Elis also served in the Marine Corps, and while she used to work at one of its K-9 units, she wanted a position that would allow her to spend more time and training with working dogs. 

Roushia said that there are roughly 100 dogs training at the facility, including German Shepherd, Lab and Malinois breeds, plus one German shorthaired pointer. He acquires dogs at the age of 12 to 18 months from Mexico, Columbia, Germany and other parts of Europe and the United States. 

Roushia would also like to remodel an unused pool on the Zuni property for the residents’ private use — in addition to building a second pool for “dock diving” competitions. Often seen on Animal Planet, dock diving competitions entail throwing a fetch object into a body of water and seeing how far dogs can jump, the furthest winning. {/mprestriction}