Ben the drug dog coming to GISD, thanks to donors

February 16, 2013

There’s big news about Ben. The drug-sniffing dog is now officially ours.

Granbury Police Chief Mitch Galvan earlier this week confirmed that enough money has been raised to buy the one-and-a-half-year-old black lab.

“This is an incredible step forward, not only for us but for the school district,” Galvan said. “To be able to have that dog there, available to those campuses every day, is going to be a huge deterrent for anybody thinking about bringing drugs to the school, or possessing and using, for that matter.”

Ben has been trained to sniff out marijuana, heroine, cocaine and meth. Officer Jeff Hastings will be leaving for San Antonio on Sunday to get the dog and to attend three weeks of training with him. Hastings said that he and Ben will be ready for duty by the time students return from spring break.

United Way of Hood County and its Hood County Substance Abuse Council took a leading role in helping Hastings raise the $8,800 needed to purchase Ben and to provide for his care for the first year he’s in Granbury. The Citizens Police Academy donated $1,000 at the beginning of the fundraising effort, and the local Rotary club also gave that amount. Kiwanis also gave, as did individual donors.

“One guy gave $2,000, and he said he didn’t want anybody to know who gave it,” said United Way Executive Director Toni Brown-Belew.

Hastings and United Way embarked on the mission to raise money to purchase Ben after the Granbury School Board and the Granbury City Council voted in support of Hastings’ suggestion to utilize a drug dog in the schools.

Hastings teaches the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. The officer has been so popular with students and school administrators alike that Galvan has allowed him to be a police liaison on the upper level campuses. Hastings spends a good deal of time at Granbury High School.

Hastings said that many GHS students are in support of Ben. The dog will alleviate the pressure some of them feel to report fellow classmates’ drug use or drug distribution, the officer said, and will eliminate fear of reprisals for “snitching.”

“There are a lot of kids that are excited about it,” Hastings said. “It’s something that they think should have been done a long time ago.”

Galvan said he wants the public to understand that money will need to be raised continuously for Ben’s care and feeding.

Dave Moore, a former United Way board member who heads the Substance Abuse Council, said that a local veterinarian has volunteered to provide annual checkups and routine shots for Ben. Moore said that if the dog should ever get sick or injured and require extra care, the money will be provided by the council. The chief need not worry, he said.

“We’re not going to let a few dollars get in the way,” Moore promised.

the drug team

Hastings and Ben will patrol school hallways, locker areas and parking lots. If Ben alerts on a student’s vehicle, school officials will search it.

If no drugs are found in the vehicle, the dog’s alert might indicate that drug use recently occurred, Hastings said. No criminal charges will be filed in those situations, but school officials may inform the student’s parent or guardian and may also take disciplinary action.

Galvan praised Hastings for his “extra efforts and ideas.”

“Most of the stuff that he does, he does on his own time,” the police chief said. “The job that he is doing, and the impact he is having on these kids has been tremendous.”

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