ELLERBE — It was a dog-day afternoon as U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, toured the K2 Solutions kennel facility Tuesday.
The congressman got an inside look at the training of dogs used by law enforcement and the military.
“I’m really impressed with the scale and the professionalism of this facility,” Hudson said.
The 125-acre facility, located in northern Richmond County near the Moore and Montgomery county lines, trains dogs to locate explosives, weapons and drugs.
There are multiple training fields and obstacle courses throughout the grounds.
K2 also trains service dogs to assist disabled veterans through several programs including Hearts for Heroes.
During the tour, Hudson observed dogs being trained to perform tasks like picking up wallets and phones. Dogs are also trained to work through various distractions, including vacuum cleaners and drums.
One building on the grounds monitors the reactions of dogs in various temperatures.
Stacey West, K-9 research and development program manager, said the company was “purpose-built around the Marine Corps effort” to train dogs to sniff out improvised explosive devices.
Hudson was shown a demonstration of dogs checking vehicles across a field and another sniffing out person-borne explosives from a crowd.
Following the exhibition, K2 CEO Lane Kjellsen told Hudson a story about one of the canines.
Kjellsen said a dog had alerted to an abandoned car right outside a base in Afghanistan. The car had already been cleared by an explosives detection team.
The handler went to the base commander, who had the team check the car again. Eventually, a bomb was discovered inside the seats and had a timer set to go off in two hours.
K2 has trained more than 600 dogs for the Marines, but West said the “contract with the Corps is being phased down over time.”
The facility currently has 188 dogs actively training.
The canines don’t spend all their time at the facility, either.
The company contracts with local farmers to “help acclimate canines to livestock, machinery noise and IED noise simulators,” according to the company’s website.
Dogs have also spent time training at a flea market, rail yards, a boat yard and Rockingham Speedway, among other places.
“The threats are greater and growing and you guys are part of the solution,” Hudson told the staff of K2. “The capabilities that the dogs are learning here are exactly the tool we need to deal with those threats.”
“We need these detection capabilities at airports and major events,” Hudson said, citing the shoe bomber, underwear bomber and the Boston Marathon bombing. “This is the answer to saving lives.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.