Two additional K9 teams to patrol Hall County schools starting with the new school year; Gainesville schools getting their first K9 team

When school begins in Hall County August 4, the students at Lanier College Career Academy (LCCA) and East Hall High School (EHHS) will have new four-legged classmates roaming the halls with them.

K9 Zena and her handler, Deputy Justin Bonds, and K9 Zeus and his handler, Deputy Chris Alford, will join the SRO-K9 team of Murph and Deputy Zack Marley, who will begin their fourth year of service at West Hall High School. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the Hall County School District (HCSD) share the costs associated with the care and training of the K9s that serve in the schools.

While the three K9s assigned to the school district are trained in narcotics detection, their jobs extend beyond sniffing out illegal drugs.

“Having the dogs in the schools really helps to build a better relationship with our deputies,” said Jeremy Prickett, who is the sergeant over the HCSO K9 Unit. “Sometimes a student may be uneasy approaching a deputy in a uniform about a concern, but having the dog there kind of breaks the ice.”

Zena and Zeus arrived at HCSO in June from Southern Coast K9 in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., fully trained in narcotics detection, but they and Deputies Bonds and Alford have spent the last few weeks training together and getting ready for the 2023-2024 school year.

The HCSO K9 Unit is comprised of 13 teams that serve in various capacities including search and rescue, explosives detection and narcotics detection.

Meanwhile, Officer Dustin Cleveland with the Gainesville City School System Safety & Security Team and K9 Bella will serve all of the schools in the city school district starting with the new school year. City school officials announced the hiring of the system’s first-ever K9 team last week.

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