Sheriff’s K-9 to keep guns, drugs out of schools

Published 7:11 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is introducing a new four-legged deputy to the community — a three-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Boone. He and handler Sgt. Stephen Ziglar serve “the 45” on patrol together and starting in August the pair begin a mission providing safety services in Lowndes County Public Schools.

According to Lt. Nick Cognasi, Boone brings something the department needs — an officer dedicated to keeping area schools free from drugs and weapons.

“Boone is part of a very special canine program we’re doing,” Cognasi said. “It is strictly for the schools. This fall, he will be in our schools all the time. He is strictly for narcotics and firearms detection and allows us to keep guns and drugs out of our schools.”

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Boone is trained in drug and weapon discovery. He is deputized and received training with Ziglar at Alabama Canine in Northport. 

Boone lives with Zlglar and his wife Christine and is counted as a member of the Ziglar pack. 

He is friendly and loves nothing more than receiving pets from everyone he meets.

“He’s a very playful dog,” Ziglar said. “He likes to be petted more than he likes getting his reward.”

Unlike the department’s other K-9 deputy, Agi, Boone is not trained for search and rescue. Neither K-9 officer works as a “bite dog,” and Boone, chosen for his friendly personality, is tasked with helping the community and especially students to feel safe in his presence.

“We picked him out in November of last year,” Ziglar said. “Me, Sheriff [Chris] West and Cognasi went and looked at dogs. When Boone hopped out of the truck, we knew he was the one.”

The dog has already put his scenting skills to work, assisting Troopers with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to discover a suspect’s discarded weapon. And, as “goodwill ambassador” for the department, Boone can also help when officers are called to a scene where children are present and in need of comfort.

“When we go to a domestic violence call, or any sort of call where there are kids, I can use Boone,” Ziglar said. “Some people don’t like dogs or are scared of them, but for the ones that do I can say, ‘I’ve got a dog in the truck that wants to help you.’ Sometimes that brings a different light to a dark situation, especially when we can help the kid be happy by playing with the dog.”

Ziglar said he has always enjoyed working with dogs. He came to the force with a desire to work with K-9 officers and left the department’s investigative unit in October to begin the process of training to be a handler.

The pair expect to work primarily in Fort Deposit area schools this fall and will also work details throughout the county when needed.

“Right now, I am assigned to the patrol division as a shift supervisor,” Ziglar said. “Come next school year I will supervise all SRO’s (school resource officers). The plan is for us to work at Fort Deposit Elementary School and Lowndes Middle School, then, because I have the dog, I will also go into all the other schools.”