Positive Report on Drug Sniffing Dogs

Ron Okamura
Ron Okamura
Jeanne Ohta
Jeanne Ohta

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- An evaluation is in on the pilot program that involved using dogs to sniff out drugs, alcohol, or weapons at schools.

Three schools on Maui were test sites. The canine searches were conducted between February and May of last year.

Department of Education (DOE) leaders reported their findings to the Committee on Special Programs Monday afternoon.

They say there were no complaints, and no privacy issues raised at the schools.

According to DOE's Ron Okamura, parents and teachers on Maui are not wrinkling their noses at the idea, that even students loved having a drug dog.

"They were more empowered to say no because a lot of times kids buckle into peer pressure. This allowed them the opportunity to say no because they never knew when the dog was going to come on campus or they didn't want to get caught," said Okamura, a Complex Area Superintendent.

"One of the dialogues was, 'well the drug dogs allow them to say no because the drug dogs are coming today, I'm going to say no'. What we want is for them to have peer resistance education so that they say 'no' no matter what," said Jeanne Ohta, the Executive Director for Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

Critics say drug dogs only encourage students to hide drugs elsewhere. But DOE numbers show, after the canine sniffing testing period was over, drug cases on campus shot up. Okamura said, at one school, drug cases shot up from 2 during the testing period, to 19 after the program was done.

"Whether it's because of dogs are there or not, we are still evaluating it but we have seen an increase because of the fact that we don't have that type of program running around on campus right now," said Okamura.

"Those are not scientifically based outcomes. Those are anecodotal, and when they say 'well children love the program', well, children love D.A.R.E. They come out of D.A.R.E. real excited but it's been proven to be ineffective, does not work. We want programs that work," said Ohta.

the canine searches do not involve sniffing out lockers or backpacks, only common areas like hallways, although there are groups pushing to expand the searches to include lockers.

doe is now looking for private funding to help interested schools get a drug dog.

meanwhile the board of education is still debating wheter to allocate state funds for the program.