NNPS partners with local, veteran-owned American K-9 Interdiction

Posted: February 13, 2024

Training dogs to detect dangers to people gives a unique local business the opportunity to protect citizens while providing employment to a unique population.

American K-9 Interdiction trains and provides working canines and their handlers for various uses all over the world. In addition, it is military veteran owned, veteran centric and 80 percent of its employees are military or law enforcement veterans, according to James Overton, director of marketing and business development at AK9I.

Newport News Public Schools is partnering with the company to provide an additional layer of security for the school community. Handlers and specially trained and socialized canines who can detect firearms and narcotics will work at various schools and school division events throughout the year.

"Newport News Public Schools has contracted with industry leader American K-9 Interdiction for school K-9 safety searches to provide an additional layer of security in our schools," said Marc Stewart, executive director of Crisis Planning, Prevention and Environmental Risk Management.

AK9I is headquartered in Carrsville with an additional training facility in Zuni. On-site dorms for handlers going through training and a state-of-the-art kennel are part of the almost 200 acres it operates on.

AK9I President Paul Roushia is a retired Navy veteran and police officer.

Founded originally in 2001 to focus on producing expertly-trained canines to protect and save lives, AK9I expanded its handler training operation. Certified as a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, the company is now a nationally-accredited post-secondary learning institution registered with the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia and the Virginia State Approving Agency to accept GI Bill benefits.

"Where we really got the start with the focus on the veterans was accepting the GI Bill benefits, which allows us to help the veterans make that transitioning step from the military into a new career," said Overton, who is a military veteran who left service after an injury overseas.

"What I did notice in terms of the veterans is that a lot of veterans getting out, they struggle with a lost sense of purpose. ...This helped me find a new purpose and I've seen that happen with so many veterans."

Military veterans can suffer a range of issues from depression to post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behavior. AK9I's program provides a boost to participants' overall well-being, according to Overton.

During the training, veterans develop confidence and a sense of pride, graduating with their K-9 partners by their sides. The dog acts as a working partner as well as a therapy dog each of them can rely on at all times.

"We've seen such a dramatic change in so many veterans' lives," Overton said. "One, we're helping safeguard schools; we're helping safeguard the community. We're out there doing those awesome things. But we're also saving the lives of these veterans by giving them a new sense of purpose.

"So I feel really passionate about the veteran side of things. And it's kind of awesome for us not only to be a veteran-centric company, but also to be able to help the veteran community."

Dogs and handlers are trained at both locations the company runs. Initially started right after 9/11 as a dog training company, AK9I trains and sells dogs to military and law enforcement agencies, trains handlers and provides training and operational teams for private sector businesses and organizations.

The dogs are what the industry terms single purpose dogs, which means they have only one purpose in mind and that's to find a target odor. Specially trained to manage all of the aspects of the school environment, the dogs are very sociable.

The dogs and their handlers are not law enforcement officers and their purpose is to work as a deterrent through their presence, according to Overton.

American K-9 Interdiction has offered a scholarship for an NNPS graduate to complete its certification program. The full scholarship is worth approximately $25,000, covers the cost of the 13-week course and the dog they work with will become the graduate's at the end of the course.

Upon completion, the person can work as a handler with any company, start their own dog training business or work as a dog trainer elsewhere.

"There are a lot of different career paths that they can take with that," Overton said.